Defense and Special Teams The Key to 5-0

I do not know if you have heard or not, but ESPN's College Gameday is coming to Vanderbilt Saturday. It has been all the rage in Nashville since it was announced last weekend. Having the ESPN crew at Vandy is a big opportunity to sell the football program and the school to a huge audience, especially if the Dores can pull out a win against the Auburn Tigers.

If you are a fan of offenses marching up and down the field and lighting up the scoreboard, this game is not going to be for you. Both of these teams pride themselves on playing defense and running the football. The team that wins the turnover battle will probably be the team that comes out on top Saturday night.

The Tigers' offense has really struggled against Southeastern Conference competition averaging just less than 13 points per game in those contests. They have a big question mark at the quarterback that has forced them to use the two quarterback system for most of the season. The problem for the Commodores in trying to prepare for the Auburn offense is that the two quarterbacks play the position so differently. Chris Todd is a pocket passer that likes to drop back and get rid of the ball on time. Kodi Burns, the other Auburn quarterback, is more of an athlete who can throw, but he can also escape the pocket and makes some big plays with his legs.

When Todd is in the game the Black and Gold defense will need to get in his face and pressure him. They will not need to be as concerned about staying in their rush lanes against Todd because he is no going to hurt them with his legs. Against Burns it is very important that every defender play his assignment because if someone leaves a gap open Burns can make a big play.

The main challenge for the Vandy defense will be to slow down the rushing attack of the Tigers. Auburn averages 156.2 yards per game on the ground, and they have done most of that without a healthy Brad Lester. Lester appears to be healthy now, and when you combine him with the bruising running style of Ben Tate you have a very talented two-headed monster. The Commodores will need to make sure they tackle those guys when they get the chance to limit the big plays.

The most important thing for the Vanderbilt offense in this game is to take care of the ball. This game looks it will be a low scoring affair, and in games like that you cannot afford to give the opposing team easy scoring chances. The Auburn defense is very good, giving up just 246 yards per game of total offense, so the Dores do not want to be trying to dig out of a big hole.

The Tigers' defense gives up just 92.2 yards per game rushing, and has only given up 1 rushing touchdown on the season. Running the ball will not be easy for the Commodores' offense, but they will still need to try and establish the ground game to open up some things down the field.

To get a win in this game, the Vanderbilt special teams will need to be as good as they have been all year. Field position will be key in this game, so the Commodores need Brett Upson to punt well like he has all season and will need a big return or two from D.J. Moore to set up some easy scoring chances.

This is a huge chance for the Vanderbilt football program to really put itself on the map. If the Commodores can take care of the ball on offense, and play the same type of defense they have all season long, they should emerge from this game 5-0.