Here's what must happen for a Commodore win.
Rice has a very, very high octane offense, that put up at least 45 points in each of their first two games. They are lead by their outstanding quarterback, Chase Clement. The Rice offense relies on plays by their quarterback, and a lot of timing routes. For Vanderbilt to shut down the Rice offense, they will have to, at the very least, throw off Clement's timing. The Vanderbilt defensive line, and quick ends Steven Stone and Broderick Stewart must get past Rice's offensive line fast and not give him time to throw the football downfield. Also, Chris Marve, Vanderbilt's impressive freshman middle linebacker, must be aware of where Clement is at all times. Clement can run, and he will not hesitate to do so. Marve will likely be given the job of spying Clement, and he must make sure that none of his runs go for a long distance. The outstanding Commodore secondary will have their hands full of a pass-first offense, and they must play very well, despite losing Dalron Spead to injury.
Run the Ball
Vanderbilt must control the tempo of the game, which means long scoring drives, and stops on the defensive side of the football. Jared Hawkins will be key for the Dores. After rushing for 84 yards and a touchdown in the win over South Carolina, Hawkins will need to step it up and power through and wear down the Rice defense. Rice's defense has been suspect so say the least, and Vanderbilt will need to exploit that, on the ground and through the air. However, with all the receiver injuries that Vandy has, look for Vandy to try to win this game on the ground, behind the legs of quarterback Chris Nickson as well as Hawkins. Gaston Miller has had solid outings in his first two appearances, and he will need another one on Saturday. Though Vanderbilt would love to slow down the game and make it a low scoring battle, Gaston Miller needs to provide the offense with a spark and get a couple of big plays to help the offense out. If Jeff Jennings plays, he will need to pound the ball through Rice's defense on the short yardage situations, which will be key in controlling the tempo of the game.
Jack of All Trades
Vanderbilt cornerback D.J. Moore will be key to beating Rice. First, he must anchor down the Vanderbilt secondary, and try to limit Rice's passing offense. He will be called for to provide a spark on punt and kick returns, as well as on offense, and Vandy will need to use him to win this game. The Commodore offense is perfect in the redzone, but has had trouble getting there. With Moore's speed and elusiveness, he will be key in getting Vandy into great field position, where the offense can score.
Vanderbilt leads all-time series 2-1. Last meeting: Vanderbilt 9 Rice 6 (1975 in Houston). This is the first meeting in Nashville