HEAD TO HEAD: VANDERBILT VS. WAKE FOREST

Josh Harris

Vanderbilt hosts Wake Forest on Saturday for Senior Day at Vanderbilt Stadium. VandyMania.com's D. Yates compares the two teams in several critical areas. We also make a prediction on the game's final score.

VANDERBILT PASSING OFFENSE
VS.
WAKE FOREST PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: VANDERBILT
REMARKS: Vanderbilt's passing attack is ranked No. 62 nationally averaging 230.3 yards per game while completing 66 percent of 320 passes for 12 touchdowns. Senior Austyn Carta-Samuels, who will be playing in his final game at Vanderbilt Stadium on Saturday, has 2,037 yards passing this season completing 169-of-248 passes (68%) for 10 touchdowns against eight interceptions. Carta-Samuels was injured during the win over Georgia missed the Texas A&M and Florida games. He has shared time with backup Patton Robinette over the past two games. Robinette has completed 38-of-65 passes for 448 yards, 2 TDs and 3 interceptions. Jordan Matthews has 96 catches for 1,209 yards and five touchdowns. He became the Southeastern Conference's all-time career reception leader during the win at Tennessee. Senior Jonathan Krause has 35 catches for 651 yards and three scores this season. Tailbacks Jerron Seymour and Wesley Tate have combined for 37 catches in 2013. Vanderbilt's blockers, led by senior offensive lineman Wesley Johnson, have allowed 31 sacks this season.

This year the Demon Deacons are ranked 44th (218.6 YPG) in the nation in pass defense. Nose guard Nikita Whitlock leads Wake Forest with nine sacks. Senior linebacker Justin Jackson (52 tackles, 1 sack 2013) is the team's top edge rusher. Senior defensive end Zach Thompson has five sacks this year. Junior cornerback Merrill Noel suffered through an injury plagued season last year as he missed four games. Noel is one of the best cover backs in the ACC. This season he has made 52 tackles, broken up six passes and forced three fumbles. The other corner back is junior Kevin Johnson (49 tackles in 2013) who has intercepted three passes this year. The Demon Deacon have been solid generating pressure this year with 22 sacks in 11 games.

VANDERBILT RUSHING OFFENSE
VS.
WAKE FOREST RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: EVEN
REMARKS: EVEN In last year's blow out win over Wake the Commodores' Zac Stacy averaged 8.6 yards per carry while gaining 180 yards and scoring two touchdowns. However, this season the Commodore ground game has taken a step back averaging only 133.1 yards per game (No. 97 NCAA). While the yardage hasn't been as good, Vandy has been able to punch the ball in the end zone and has scored 30 touchdowns on the ground. Sophomore Jerron Seymour leads the Commodores in rushing with 627 yards gained on 127 carries for 13 touchdowns. Senior Wesley Wesley Tate has 319 yards on 77 carries (4.1 YPC). Tate ran for 43 yards on 10 carries last week at UT but didn't play in the two games previous to the Vol game. Brian Kimbrow has 221 yards on 55 carries for two touchdowns but his carries last week at UT were limited after fumbling early in the game. Quarterbacks Austyn Carta-Samuels and Patton Robinette are each threats to run. Both QBs have scored five touchdowns this season. Robinette scored the game winner last week at Tennessee with less than a minute remaining.

Wake Forest is ranked 34th in the nation in run defense. They've allowed 144 rushing yards on average a game. The defense has allowed only 3.8 yards per rushing attempt and 12 rushing touchdowns in 11 games. Wake Forest plays a 3-4 defensive alignment. Their excellent starting nose guard Nikita Whitlock (70 tackles, 16 for loss in 2013) is a two-time All-ACC selection. The Demon Deacons have a group of athletic linebackers who are fast and can hit. Senior Mike Olson (73 tackles in 2013) led the team in tackles last year. He has also broken up four passes, intercepted a pass and has forced a fumble. Middle linebacker Brandon Chubb has made 77 tackles and picked off a pass this year.

WAKE FOREST PASSING OFFENSE
VS.
VANDERBILT PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: VANDERBILT
REMARKS: Senior quarterback Tanner Price is a three year starter. He completed 58.8 percent of his passes in 2012. His sophomore season he completed 60 percent of his passes for 3,017 yards and 20 touchdowns. This year Price, a lefty, has completed 190 of 346 passes (54.9%) for 2,078 yards with 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Talented receiver Michael Campanaro (67 receptions, 803 yards) broke his hand against Syracuse in week 8 and hasn't played since. Big wide receiver Jonathan Williams is averaging 14.1 yards per catch (15-212 yards) but didn't register a catch last week versus Duke. Sherman Ragland III has 20 catches in six games and caught four last week against the Blue Devils to lead Wake in that category. The Demon Deacons offensive line has struggled at times protecting Price. They have allowed 22 sacks this season.

The Commodore pass defense ranks No. 28 nationally (209 YPG). Last week the Commodores allowed Tennessee 218 yards passing on 11 of 20 completions for no touchdowns. However, all four members of the secondary could be missing for at least a portion of the Wake game. Vanderbilt defenders have been on an interception feeding frenzy the past three games, intercepting a total 10 passes. By comparison, the Commodores intercepted just five times in the season's first eight games. Kenny Ladler leads the 'Dores with five picks, however, Ladler will have to sit out the first half against the Deacs because of a targeting hit call in the UT game. Freshman cornerback Paris Head has three picks this season including two last week at UT. Sophomore safety Andrew Williamson and senior cornerback Andre Hal each have two interceptions. Hal, fellow starting safety Steven Clarke and strong safety Javon Marshall were all injured during the Tennessee game and their status for Wake Forest is uncertain.
WAKE FOREST RUSHING OFFENSE
VS.
VANDERBILT RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: VANDERBILT
REMARKS: Wake Forest has struggled to establish the run this year averaging just 2.85 yards per rushing attempt. That number is even worse than last season when the Deacs averaged 3.0 yards per carry. In 2012 Wake rushed for 124 yards in their 55-21 loss to Vandy. While they have struggled to establish the run the Demon Deacons do average 307 pounds across their offensive line. Speedy tailback Josh Harris leads the team with just 435 yards on 118 carries. He's averaged 3.7 yards per carry. Last year Harris did not play against Vandy. Fullback Jordan Garside doesn't have a carry this season. Quarterback Tanner Price is the team's second leading rusher with 193 yards on 111 attempts.

Vanderbilt's rushing defense is ranked No. 47 (151 YPG) in the NCAA. In last week's 14-10 win at Tennessee Vandy allowed 184 yards on 45 carries for one TD. Two weeks ago against Kentucky the 'Dores limited the struggling Cats to 142 yards on 40 carries. Vandy's leading tackler is Kenny Ladler (84 tackles) but, again, the veteran player will have to sit out the first half against the Deacs. Andrew Williamson will fill in for Ladler. Sophomore linebacker Darreon Herring has 75 tackles, including 1 1/2 for a loss. Senior defensive end Walker May is second on the team in tackles for loss with 7 1/2. The TFL leader, Caleb Azubike, was injured on the last play of the Kentucky game. Linebacker Karl Butler and defensive end Kyle Woestmann each have 6 1/2 tackles for losses.

SPECIAL TEAMS
EDGE: EVEN
REMARKS: Special teams: Sophomore Chad Hedlund has hit 8-of-12 field goal attempts this year with a long of 51 yards. All-conference punter Alexander Kinal has averaged 39.9 yards per punt and has had 33 punts fair caught due to his excellent hang time. Wake Forest doesn't offer much in the return game. Wake lists Josh Harris as the starting kick returner. He has three returns for 58 yards this season with a long return of 21 yards.

Vanderbilt kicker Carey Spear has made 10-of-14 field goals and all 41 of his point after attempts. He scored a touchdown against Georgia on a fake punt run. Taylor Hudson has 46 punts for an average of 43 yards a punt. Hudson, however, can be erratic at times. Last week at Tennessee he had a 15-yard punt. Darius Sims is a kick return threat for Vanderbilt. He's averaged 24.2 yards per return and nearly took one all the way at UT last week. Lineman Adam Butler has blocked two kicks this season.

INTANGIBLES
EDGE: EVEN
REMARKS: It's Senior Day for Vanderbilt and the Commodores will be honoring 20 players who will be completing their Commodore careers. Vanderbilt has won eight straight in November. The Wake Forest players may feel they need to win one for their coach who has already been saddled with his third straight losing season. In the Vanderbilt-Wake Forest series the visiting team has won 10-of-15 times. Vanderbilt could be ripe for letdown after a close, emotional win at Tennessee but the Commodore staff has done fairly well at keeping the 'Dores focused.

COACHING
EDGE: VANDERBILT
REMARKS: Vanderbilt's James Franklin is 22-15 in just under three seasons and has the ‘Dores bowl eligible for the third straight season. Previous to his arrival in Nashville Vandy had never been to back-to-back bowl games. Under his direction Vandy has a winning combined record (9-7) in the SEC over the past two seasons. Franklin coached teams have dominated Wake in the past spanning from Franklin's days at Maryland and his first two seasons at Vanderbilt (55-21, 41-7).

Jim Grobe is one of the more respected coaches in college football. Grobe is in his 13th season at Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons had won just 26 victories in the eight seasons prior to his arrival. In 2006 under his direction they won their first ACC title since 1970 and played in the Orange Bowl.

PREDICTION: Vanderbilt 31, Wake Forest 17.

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