Vanderbilt Commodores (3-1 SU, 3-1 ATS) at No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide (5-0 SU, 4-1 ATS), Saturday October 8th, 2011. 7:00PM EST, College Football Week 6
Bryant-Denny Stadium Tuscaloosa, Ala
By Jay Horne, College Football Handicapper of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Vandy +28.5/Bama -28.5
Over/Under Total: 41.5
Last week, the no. 3 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide proved yet again that they are contenders for the 2011 National Championship. For the 2nd week in a row, the Crimson Tide blew out a quality SEC opponent while making it look freakishly easy in the process. The mayhem started in Tuscaloosa two weeks ago when the Crimson Tide defense shut down one of the best offenses in the nation in route to a 38-14 victory over the no. 14 Arkansas Razorbacks. Then last week, Alabama took their talent on the road and blew out the best team from the SEC East by way of the Florida Gators by a score of 38-10. This week Alabama looks to keep the momentum alive and remain frontrunners in the National Championship discussion when they host the Vanderbilt Commodores at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Over the past few years, Vanderbilt has been the equivalent to a “bye week” from a schedule standpoint from typical SEC powers like Alabama. After all, the Commodores best season in the last decade compiled of a measly 5-6 record back in 2005 in the midst of the Jay Cutler era. However, this season the Commodores are attempting to turn the corner under new Head Coach James Franklin. The Commodores surprisingly jumped out to a 3-0 start this season with wins over Connecticut and Ole Miss. Then Vanderbilt suffered their first loss of the season on the road at no. 12 South Carolina two weeks ago before getting last week off. This week the Commodores look to prove to the SEC that they are no longer the doormat of the SEC when the battle possibly the best team the SEC has to offer in the Alabama Crimson Tide.
The strength of the Commodores lies on the defensive side of the football. The offense has not been overpowering to say the least, but the defense has done a great job at keeping teams off the scoreboard by allowing just 15 points per game. Overall the Vanderbilt defense ranks 11th in the nation in total defense giving up 279 yards per game. If not for the defense, the Commodores would likely be off to another 1-3 or 2-2 start from years past. After all, the offense ranks a miserable 117th in the country averaging just 258 yards per game. The Commodores passing attack has simply been non-existent ranking near dead last in the NCAA with just 124 yards per game.
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QB Larry Smith is completing just 57% passing for 412 yards with 3 scores and 3 picks on the season. As a result of the passing woes, the Commodores offense has kept the ball on the ground for the most part. Running back Zac Stacy leads the team with 280 rushing yards and is averaging 7.8 yards per carry. Backup tailback Jerron Seymour has provided help averaging 4.5 yards per carry with 2 additional touchdowns. However, the big problem this week will be that the Commodores rushing game will be battling the best defensive line in the entire country.
The Crimson Tide defense owns the top ranked rushing defense in the country allowing just 39 yards per game on the ground which is simply incredible. Alabama held the extremely talented Florida rushing offense to just 15 total rushing yards last week and it is safe to say that will present another huge challenge for the Vanderbilt offense again this week.
On the other side of the ball, the Crimson Tide appear to be getting better each week on offense. QB A.J. McCarron has not thrown an interception since the opener and is managing the Crimson Tide offense well. McCarron has completed 62.5% passing for 919 yards with 4 scores and 2 picks on the year. As stated plenty of time earlier this year, Alabama does not need a strong passing offense to be successful. They simply need McCarron to protect the football. Therefore, when he does complete some passes it just takes some pressure off the Alabama rushing attack.
The Crimson Tide offense is led by a dominant power rushing attack that averages 229 yards per game on the ground. Running back Trent Richardson leads the SEC with 10 rushing touchdowns and is averaging 6.5 yards per carry. Backup tailback Eddie Lacy has also provided some excitement out of the backfield carry the ball 46 times for 397 yards and 5 touchdowns. Both Crimson Tide tailbacks have proved that they have big play potential. The Alabama offensive line has been dominant over the last few weeks creating big holes in opposing defensive lines. Therefore, when you have as talented running backs as Alabama they are even more dangerous when the offensive line is controlling the line of scrimmage. This week expect more of the same from Alabama against an undersized Vanderbilt defensive line.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: This game does not bode well for the Commodores. The Crimson Tide defense has given up just 24 points combined against two of the better offenses in the SEC in the last two weeks. Now you have a Commodores offense coming into Tuscaloosa that can only pick up first downs on the ground against the top ranked rush defense in the country. This Alabama defense will have a field day. I know 28.5 is a large number to cover, but I think this Alabama defense will make it much easier for the offense to score points. Roll Tide -28.5.
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