Christian D'Andrea: It is possible to have a trap game when you're coming off a loss? I've never seen the Vanderbilt community so optimistic after a loss before, but it's clear that Derek Mason has made some major strides in 2015. In the past few weeks, he's gone from Rod Dowhower to Bobby Johnson on the scale of Commodore coaches. A win on Saturday would keep him from backsliding into the "Fire Mason" narratives that began to crop up last fall.
The key to this week's game will be whether or not Vandy's growth on the offensive line was an aberration against Ole Miss. The combination of underachieving blockers and a media-hyped Rebel line helped make an otherwise average performance stand out last week. They'll have an easier assignment against MTSU. The Blue Raiders have nine sacks through four games so far (same as Vandy), but only two of those came against BCS-level competition (and that was Illinois). Johnny McCrary should have enough time to make comfortable throws in the pocket on Saturday, and that will help boost his still-growing confidence as a passer.
McCrary barely completed more than 50 percent of his passes last week, but he went without an interception for the second straight game. The biggest knock on the young QB has been his willingness to force passes into closed windows, especially in the red zone. The Blue Raiders will give him plenty of big play chances this weekend, but the plays where McCrary checks down to a closer receiver, throws the ball away, or even pulls the ball down and gets tackled in the backfield may be just as important to this team as his touchdown passes.
He'll get a huge boost if this team's running game comes out to play for the first time all season. Ralph Webb is currently averaging 3.4 yards each time he touches the ball - a figure that's nearly a full yard worse than his performance as a freshman. He's looked lively and dynamic on some plays, but he's lacked the creativity that made him an impact player in 2014. If Webb can create space and prevent the Blue Raiders from crowding the line of scrimmage then he'll expand Andy Ludwig's playbook and give this offense a launching point from which they can spoil MTSU's Homecoming festivities.
I don't think we'll see an offensive explosion on Saturday, but I believe that McCrary has proven enough since week one to handle a Conference-USA opponent with only a few speed bumps along the way. As for the defense?
I'm not too worried about the defense.
The Pick: Vanderbilt 31, MTSU 16
The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: South Carolina (+2.5) over MISSOURI. Remember when this game was enough to get you excited about college football? Yeah, me either. Anyway, two teams with a penchant of playing down to their opponents' levels square off on Saturday, and that will result in a death spiral that only ends when Lorenzo Nunez is sacked in his own end zone to kick off the fourth overtime.
VandyTigerPhd: There's no disputing my stance right now. You've already read it, and if you haven't you're a filthy heathen go read it now. Losing to MTSU is not an option though. I'm hesitant to say that's the catastrophe of which I speak, but it's certainly an element of it.
We are the underdogs in this game, but that is likely in part due to (a) not winning a game against FBS teams yet and (b) MTSU and VU have such a history that we stopped the series because they won so much. This is by far not an easy win. It will likely give us a few heart attacks.
I don't care about big plays, I don't care about winning big. I just want to look like a team that deserves the win. If we win in a manner that looks undeserving, that won't quell anyone's doubts. Our defense will likely keep MTSU at bay as they have kept two of the best teams in the country (UGA, Mississippi). The question is can our offense produce?
I *hope* so, but right now we're a team that would be sitting on two HUGE upsets and a 4-0 start if our offense were good. That is a positive for the future, but for right now, we're still struggling scoring points. I therefore cannot give us too many points... I just can't.
The Pick: Vanderbilt 17, MTSU 10
The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: San Jose State (+21) over Auburn. I'm not saying Auburn will lose, though lol Jacksonville State, but Auburn is not covering a 21 point spread on anyone.
Andrew VU '04: Barring the refs allowing 13 men on the field for every field goal attempt, we're winning this one. Riggs has pulled the gun from his mouth, put the safety on, and put it in his gun safe. The era of good feelings begins tomorrow!
The Pick: Vanderbilt 24, MTSU 13
The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: Eastern Michigan (+45) over LSU. Brandon Harris can suck it. Fournette gets 300 yards in the first half, then Les rests him for the rest of the game. LSU by 42, not 45.