Saturday Predictions: Auburn at Vanderbilt

Jordan Rodgers is quietly improving as the season wears on. Can he break out against the Tigers? - Frederick Breedon

Vanderbilt will host a slumping Auburn team this Saturday in a game that could make or break the Commodores' bowl chances. How will everything play out?

Vanderbilt has had a disappointing season so far. If Commodore fans want to complain, however, I'd suggest avoiding any Auburn alumni.

That's because the Tigers have been the SEC's most disappointing team of 2012. Auburn started their season as a fringe member of many top 25 ballots but have fallen to a 1-5 record since then. That record includes a deflating 41-20 defeat to Ole Miss that saw the Rebels outscore Auburn 24-7 in the second half.

That result has made Vandy a seven point favorite despite being only 2-4 at the season's halfway mark. While the Commodores have been inconsistent on offense this season, Auburn has been even worse. The Tigers rank 117th in FBS play with just 16.2 points per game. Vandy is only eight spots higher in the rankings, but they also score 4.3 more points per contest than their Saturday opponents.

That suggests that we'll see a low-scoring affair at Dudley Field, but the Commodores have shown signs of snapping out of their funk in recent weeks. After stalling out in the second halves of games against South Carolina, Northwestern, and Georgia, the team has shown signs of life by sustaining drives and scoring points late in contests against Missouri and Florida.

Can Vanderbilt continue their development as the head into the easier half of their schedule? Or will Auburn finally find their footing in Nashville? Let's turn to our experts* and see what Anchor of Gold had to say about this week's matchup.

Christian D'Andrea: First things first; I'll be down in Nashville for my first Commodore home game in a couple years, and I am thrilled to see a rematch of 2008's College Gameday showdown while simultaneously horrified at the prospect of an 11:21am kickoff and a 9 am tailgate. That being said, if any AoG'ers are floating around the Vandyville lots, come say hi, share a beer, and show off your best impression of Jordan Rodgers running nine yards backwards into a sack with me. I'll be the guy with the patchy beard (it's the only way to ready myself for Movember without looking especially...molester-y) and a D.J. Moore jersey that was clearly made for a large child to wear.

Now that I've made myself seem especially creepy, onto the picks.

Vanderbilt got a great year to host the Tigers. Auburn's offense has been trying to fit square pegs into round holes all season, and it's manifested into one of the most disappointing seasons to ever converge on Jordan-Hare Stadium. Kiehl Frazier and Clint Moseley, the Tigers' two quarterbacks, have combined for just three touchdown passes while lobbing eight interceptions in six games so far.

Gene Chizik hasn't announced his starter for Saturday, but it's a safe bet that either will struggle against a Commodore secondary that has been strong in 2012. Only two quarterbacks have passed for over 100 yards against Vanderbilt this season - Aaron Murray and Corbin Berkstresser. As a result, the Tigers will have to turn to their running game if they want to beat Vanderbilt.

They've got the horses for it - Onterio McCalebb and Tre Mason are both solid tailbacks - but Vandy will be waiting for their rushing attack. The 'Dores have been able to stop their opponents on the ground when properly prepared. They held Mike Gillislee and Kendial Lawrence to subpar performances in their past two weeks. If they can limit McCalebb and Mason on Saturday, they'll have the chance to pick up their second SEC win of the season.

The Pick: Vanderbilt 24, Auburn 20

SEC Upset Pick of the Week: South Carolina (+3) over FLORIDA. I don't feel great about this one. Marcus Lattimore is either out or limited for this game, and the Gators will have the advantage of a rabid crowd in the Swamp. However, have you seen the rest of the SEC's schedule this week? The only other close looking game is LSU and Texas A&M, and even that looks like it will be a double-digit Tiger win. So, in lieu of picking Middle Tennessee, I'm going with the Gamecocks here. If only they still had Stephen Garcia to run head-first through the Gator defense.

***

KingJamesIV: With a win in tomorrow’s matchup, Vanderbilt will take the all-time series lead between VU and AU (currently 20–20–1).

Here is a table of Vandy’s head-to-head record vs. the SEC, sorted by consecutive wins to a series lead for the Dores:

Team W-L-T % Wins to > .500
Auburn 20–20–01 0.500 01
Missouri 02–02–01 0.500 01
Texas A&M 00–00–00 0.000 01
Kentucky 38–41–04 0.482 04
Arkansas 02–06–00 0.250 05
Mississppi St. 07–12–02 0.381 06
Mississippi 36–47–02 0.435 12
South Carolina 04–16–00 0.200 13
LSU 07–22–01 0.250 16
Florida 09–33–02 0.227 25
Georgia 18–52–02 0.264 35
Alabama 18–60–04 0.244 43
Tennessee 28–72–05 0.290 45

The Commodores are anywhere from a six and a half to an eight point favorite in Vegas. GET THAT DUBYA.

The Pick: Vanderbilt 31, Auburn 17

SEC Upset Pick of the Week: Texas A&M (+3) over LSU With USC over UF off the board, the only other real possibility is TAMU winning as a home dog. Bama isn’t losing to Tennessee, Georgia isn’t losing to Kentucky, and Mississippi State isn’t losing to MTSU. For the Aggies to win, their potent offense will need to overpower LSU’s stifling defense. Fortunately for A&M, this isn’t a night game in Death Valley.

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