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Vanderbilt vs. Colorado State Football Prediction and Preview

Ken Seals, Vanderbilt Commodores Football

Ken Seals and the Commodores head to Fort Collins to take on the Rams in a matchup of teams looking to bounce back from season-opening losses to FCS programs

It was red faces all-around last week for Vanderbilt and Colorado State, the two teams set to square off in Fort Collins on Saturday night. Both the Commodores and Rams lost to FCS opponents.

And neither team seemed ever to be in a position to win their respective Week 1 battle. Now, a week later, one will get a win at Canvas Stadium.

Just who collects it will likely be the squad that's learned from those ugly losses.

"I want to see an attitude intensity because you know why?" Colorado State head coach Steve Addazio told The Associated Press. "We're never going to accept losing in this football program. Ever. You have to learn how to win."

Despite last week's 42-23 loss at home to the South Dakota State Jackrabbits, Addazio's Rams from the Mountain West seem likely to learn how to win faster than the Commodores, who have a much tougher schedule in front of them as a member of the SEC.

And Vanderbilt didn't do itself any favors in trying to shake last year's winless schedule by one-upping Colorado State with its home loss to the East Tennessee State Buccaneers.

The 23-3 embarrassment — double the insult for an SEC side compared to other FBS teams — came in new head coach Clark Lea's debut, too.

"We got East Tennessee State's best shot, and our game wasn't on enough to handle that and counter-punch," Lea told AP. "This is a part of us becoming a sustained, competitive program that's going to win at the highest level. It's a challenge, but it's also a great opportunity for us."

For now, it's one step at a time, though, beginning with this Week 2 meeting in Fort Collins.

Vanderbilt at Colorado State

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 11 at 10 p.m. ET
TV: CBS Sports Network
Spread: Colorado State -7

When Vanderbilt Has the Ball

There wasn't a lot to like offensively for Vanderbilt in the loss to ETSU.

What started off looking strong after a 53-yard bomb for three points by Alabama transfer kicker Joseph Bulovas quickly deteriorated, mostly due to mistakes.

Starting quarterback Ken Seals fumbled once and threw two interceptions in a 20-of-35, 195-yard passing day. His top target, Will Sheppard, was arguably the only threat with nine catches for 84 yards.

Meanwhile, Vanderbilt's top running back, Re'Mahn Davis, had just 58 yards on 15 carries. It was all part of 321 yards of total offense — 236 of which came through the air.

None of the numbers are SEC quality at all.

Everything must get better against Colorado State, especially Seals, who gets the start again.

And the good news for Vanderbilt is the Rams didn't do well against defensively in their loss despite the hype around sack-master Scott Patchan and linebackers Cam'Ron Carter and Dequan Jackson.

Not at all.

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Colorado State surrendered 466 yards, including 224 on the ground.

But the big worry is a porous secondary, giving Seals perhaps the chance to turn around things after last week's struggles.

When Colorado State Has the Ball

Expect a more balanced attack from the Rams than what they showed last week. True to Addazio's coaching philosophy, they want to run the ball and control the clock, certainly more than they did in the loss to South Dakota State.

That's a wise idea against an SEC crew, even if it's struggling Vanderbilt, which allowed 314 total yards to the FCS Buccaneers.

Still, CSU wasn't exactly anemic offensively in Week 1.

Former Temple transfer quarterback Todd Centeio was 29-of-42 passing for 304 yards and a touchdown. The Rams produced a total of 462 yards of offense against the Jackrabbits, 338 of those through the air.

Senior tight end Trey McBride, a 2020 All-American and a top NFL draft prospect, looks again like the target of choice after his 13-catch, 116-yard performance. Fellow star and junior receiver Dante Wright also went over 100 receiving yards (113 on six catches), as 10 different Rams caught a pass.

Running back David Bailey, a transfer from Boston College who played for Addazio there, ran the ball 19 times for 46 yards (plus 23 receiving). He'll look for better results against a Vanderbilt defense that surrendered 179 rushing yards and nearly five yards per carry (4.8) to ETSU.

Defense is Lea's background, and he got the job at his alma mater after a successful tenure as Notre Dame's coordinator, so you know he'll definitely be eyeing improvement on that side of the ball. It may not happen overnight, but this matchup could help lift spirits — and stats — dramatically.

Final Analysis

On the surface, the game — the first between the two schools — seems straightforward. A Mountain West team usually offers little competition against an SEC program.

But Vanderbilt isn't your usual SEC team. It's a program that has struggled to find relevance recently, going 0-9 last year after a 3-9 season in 2019.

However, Colorado State has hardly celebrated success in recent times, recording just eight wins in 28 games over the last three campaigns.

"I told our team we've got our backs up against the wall, and when I've got my back up against the wall, I'm coming out swinging, and everybody in this program is going to come out swinging," Addazio told AP. "That's what I want to see. ... We need to go take a football game."

Easier said than done when facing a team from the SEC.

Surely, even though Vanderbilt doesn't have the pedigree, it finds pride to at least score more than a field goal and maybe even slug its way to victory.

If not, then I guess it's always another learning moment for a program with nowhere to go but up.

"This has always been about the vision for the future at Vanderbilt," Lea told AP. "It's never been about just playing East Tennessee State on Sept. 4. This is about how we build this program to sustain success over time, and (that loss) can be a critical learning moment as we move forward."

Prediction: Vanderbilt 24, Colorado State 23

Podcast: Week 2 Preview, Predictions and Picks Against the Spread

— Written by Todd Saelhof, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sports editor/writer for Postmedia in Canada. Follow him on @ToddSaelhofPM at #CollegeFootballFrenzy.