Vanderbilt has twice snapped two-game Missouri winning streaks in this series, and the Commodores have a chance to accomplish the same feat on Saturday in Columbia. The Tigers have won six of the 10 meetings overall, though two of the Commodores’ three wins (the two teams tied 7-7 in 1957) have come on the road in Columbia.
With both teams sitting at 1-4 in SEC play, a full two games behind fourth-place South Carolina, a win would go a long way toward helping to secure bowl eligibility and climbing out of the basement in the SEC East.
Vanderbilt’s record is not what many in Nashville hoped, with four losses in five conference games thus far, but the Commodores’ losses have come to some of the best teams not only in the conference but in the country. With a win over Arkansas two weeks ago, Vanderbilt snapped a three-game skid that included losses to Georgia, Florida and Kentucky, ranked Nos. 5, 15 and 11, respectively, in the latest College Football Playoff rankings.
Ke’Shawn Vaughn spurred the Commodores’ rebound effort, rushing for 172 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries. Kyle Shurmur didn’t exactly light it up through the air, but he completed 13 of his 19 passes for 192 yards and a pair of scores.
Missouri also had to bounce back from a heartbreaking, final-seconds loss to Kentucky, and bounce back it did. The Tigers traveled to the Swamp and thumped Florida 38-17 in Gainesville on Saturday. Drew Lock was his typical efficient self, going 24-for-32 for an even 250 yards and three touchdowns. Damarea Crockett and Larry Rountree III combined for 186 yards with two touchdowns to balance the effort in the upset.
Vanderbilt at Missouri
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 10 at 8 p.m. ET
TV: SEC Network
Spread: Missouri -17
Three Things to Watch
1. Can Shurmur match Lock?
We all know about Drew Lock’s prowess through the air and piloting the Tigers to a top-20 mark in total offense. But often lost in the SEC’s quarterback conversation is Kyle Shurmur, who slots in fifth in the SEC in passing yards. Missouri’s pass defense is among the bottom 15 in the nation, so while Shurmur isn’t the most electrifying, he should find a lot of success in the passing game on Saturday.
2. Vanderbilt's red zone struggles
When an offense isn’t incredibly explosive (see: Missouri, Alabama or any of the top teams in the Big 12) scoring in the red zone is imperative. However, Vanderbilt’s red zone offense is fourth-worst in the FBS, scoring on just 70.6 percent of its red-zone trips this season. The Tigers’ defense from the 20-yard-line and in is not much better, sitting at 118th out of 129 teams.
3. Vaughn vs. Missouri's stout run defense
One area where Missouri really excels is in its run defense. Ke’Shawn Vaughn’s 6.8 yards per carry tops the SEC, and it’s also good enough for the eighth-best mark in the nation. On the other side, though, the Tigers boast a top-25 run defense that allows only 125 yards per game. With how potent the Tigers’ offense is, the Commodores will need to get significant contributions from Vaughn as well as Shurmur.
Both teams are looking to rebuild momentum and climb toward the postseason with some wins down the stretch. The Commodores have beaten the teams they were supposed to beat, while their losses have come to some of the conference’s top teams and Notre Dame. Missouri just finished a beatdown of Florida and looks to ride that momentum to a win with just three weeks left.
Prediction: Missouri 28, Vanderbilt 13
— Written by Juan Jose Rodriguez, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and currently a senior at the University of Notre Dame. Rodriguez was an intern for Athlon during summer 2017 and works for a variety of media outlets on campus, including as the Editor-in-Chief of Scholastic Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @JuanJoseRG02.