Vanderbilt Commodores (1-0, 0-0) at No. 11 LSU Tigers (1-0, 0-1 ATS)
Death Valley, September 12th, 7:00PM Eastern
By Jay Horne of Predictem.com
Point Spread: LSU -14.5
The No.11 LSU Tigers will host the Vanderbilt Commodores from Death Valley this Saturday night in a SEC showdown. The Tigers are expected to challenge in the SEC West this year, but will have to hold off an emerging Commodores team that has pulled off more than its share of upsets over the past few seasons. Vanderbilt is coming off a 45-0 shutout over Western Carolina last weekend and Coach Bobby Johnson continues to do great things for the Commodores.
Vanderbilt knocked off two ranked teams in the first 5 weeks of the season a year ago and will get another opportunity to do the same on the road at LSU this weekend. The Tigers are coming off a tough victory over Washington 31-23 where they were nearly 20 point favorites. The Tigers look to rebound from what many called a lackluster performance this week against the Commodores to kickoff SEC play.
The Tigers enter the season with most of their concerns on the offensive side of the ball. After a quarterback carousal that ruined the 2008 crusade, the Tigers have put their faith in sophomore quarterback Jordan Jefferson this year. Jefferson got off to a solid start throwing 11 for 19 equaling 172 yards and 3 touchdowns. Jefferson hopes to solve the question mark that has been behind center for sometime now and give some consistency.
Charles Scott leads the ground game after a breakout junior season that totaled 1,100 plus yards. Scott was held to just 52 yards in 12 carries this past weekend, but expects the ground game to get rolling as the season progresses. Terrance Toliver was the biggest playmakers in the opener catching 4 passes for 117 yards for 2 scores. Toliver is accompanied by another outstanding receiver in Brandon LaFell. LaFell has been the main target for the past few years and along with Toliver should really get the air assault firing on all cylinders.
Outside of the Mississippi Rebels, the Commodores have perhaps been the most improved program in the SEC over the last two seasons. Vanderbilt not only went to their first bowl since 1982 last year, but they won their first postseason game in over 50 years. Led by a strong defense, the Commodores were able to capture some big wins last year. However, if they are to continue their success they must see improvement on the offensive side of the ball.
Larry Smith got the start over Mackenzi Adams at quarterback throwing for 10 of 18 and 153 yards. The passing game was missing in action for most of 2008 so establishing success through the air is a main focus. Brandon Barden and Alex Washington look to add some talent to the outside for the air assault, but most indications are the Commodores will again be a defensive team. However, any success on offense will go along way in helping make a run at another bowl victory by season’s end.
The big reason there is a lot of anticipation down in Death Valley this year is the resurgence on the defensive side of the ball. The Tigers defense is what propelled them to the National Championship just two years ago. The LSU defense ranked 32nd in 2008 and should be even better this year. The secondary perhaps could be 2nd to none. Led by safety Harry Coleman, the pass defense should be very strong. The Tigers will be stellar in all parts of the defense. Surprisingly, the Tigers only recorded 1 sack in their opener to Washington and they must get a better effort up front for the defense going into SEC play.
Vanderbilt was led by one of the better defenses in the SEC last year which sounds very surprising. The Commodores ranked 15th against the pass and 30th overall. Vanderbilt will have to replace some key guys in the secondary like D.J Moore and Reshard Langford to keep the pass defense equally strong. However, the front 7 should be even strong with all returning starters. The Commodores defensive line will be in a big battle with an improved LSU offensive line and the winner of that match-up may dictate the winner of the game. The Commodores defense should keep LSU in reach, but it will still come down to if the Vanderbilt offense can score the points needed to contend.
Jay’s Pick - Commodores defense should keep things interesting. If they can force a few turnovers, things could get even more interesting. Expecting Vanderbilt does not get shutout on offense, they should keep it close. Take Vanderbilt +14.5.