It has been a rocky year for Vanderbilt, but the Commodores have managed to win a pair of SEC games against Missouri and Kentucky. A bowl game once looked like a distant possibility. Now, Vandy has a real chance to get to a bowl on the back of its defense. But it won't be easy, as the Commodores will have to take down Texas A&M and Tennessee.
When Vanderbilt takes on the Aggies this weekend, it will rely on the defense, which has been arguably the SEC's best unit outside the state of Alabama. The Commodores also have a reliable running game led by Ralph Webb, who is approaching 1,000 yards on the season.
Texas A&M's offense under Kevin Sumlin is usually the team's strength. However, with subpar quarterback play from Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray, the Aggies have been struggling. In its two most recent losses, A&M has combined for 13 points against Auburn and Ole Miss. Vanderbilt's defense could be a difficult matchup.
The only meeting between A&M and Vandy was in 2013, when the Aggies won 56-24 in College Station.
College Football Podcast: Week 12 Preview
Texas A&M at Vanderbilt
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV: SEC Network
Spread: Texas A&M -7
Three Things to Watch
1. What will Texas A&M's quarterback situation look like?
The quarterback competition is still open in College Station 10 weeks into the season. Murray has started the last three games after Sumlin decided he would give the Aggies the best chance to win. Allen was underperforming early in the year. But after coming in against Western Carolina, Allen went 6-of-6 for 88 yards and threw a touchdown. Now, the quarterback race has opened back up. Either Allen or Murray has to step up and play well for the Aggies to beat Vanderbilt. Both will likely get playing time Saturday.
2. Will Vanderbilt's defense continue to impress?
The Commodores are giving up just over 17 points per game this season. It is safe to say Derek Mason has turned Vandy's defense around quickly. Vanderbilt has one of the best defenses in the country. Its biggest problem has been the same one faced by Boston College and Missouri — no offense. The Commodores defense can't be blamed for the team's 4-6 record. On Saturday, this unit has another chance to make a statement against the Aggies' underwhelming offense. The matchup is so fascinating because of the instability at quarterback for A&M and the rowdy front seven for Vanderbilt.
3. Is this game the upset special of the week?
Vegas has A&M favored by a touchdown, but a good chunk of money is on Vanderbilt with the game being in Nashville. While the Commodores have already notched two conference wins, a victory over the Aggies would be a major upset and a defining win for Mason. This game really is not a good matchup for Texas A&M's offense unless a quarterback can make plays against Vandy's secondary. The potential is here for a David vs. Goliath kind of game. If the cards fall right, this may be a key upset in November.
Vanderbilt is oh, so close to a bowl game, yet it still seems far away with the two teams remaining on the schedule. But this Commodores team has shown fight all season. Even in losses to Georgia and Ole Miss, the defense has shown its capabilities. Texas A&M is favored, and if the offense musters even a decent effort throwing the ball, the Aggies can outscore Vanderbilt. But this one is tricky. The Commodores have a lot to play for and a win would set up a showdown with bitter rival Tennessee for bowl eligibility. Last week, I picked the better defense at home and Vandy came through. This week, I'm doing it again. The November Commodores are for real.