Vanderbilt can earn their first Southeastern Conference win since 2013 on Saturday, but they'll have to get past a top 10 defense first. Missouri will bring an aggressive pass rush at Johnny McCrary and see if they can one-up the four turnovers that South Carolina forced him into last weekend. McCrary was as bad as he's ever been in that 19-10 loss, and he needs a big performance this weekend to instill any kind of confidence in his abilities as a starter.
That's going to be tough against a Mizzou team that's allowed only 12.9 points per game this season. The Tigers held Georgia to nine points last week and limited a surging Florida team to only 21 the week before. They'll be out for blood when they face a Vanderbilt attack that ranks 119th in scoring this fall.
Fortunately for the 'Dores, Missouri sits at 124th with it comes to points per game. Saturday's showdown will be a sloppy, low-scoring affair - but that's just the kind of game Vanderbilt needs if they're going to pull out a win. So who takes this week's battle between defensive titans and offensive fleas? Let's take a closer look.
Prediction #1: Pain. Not for either team, necessarily, but for fans of competent offense.
#2: Kyle Shurmur doesn't play. Wade Freebeck does. Our #HotTaeks alert remains high.
#3: Ralph Webb's string of underwhelming games continues as his offensive line breaks apart like a Minecraft "Let's Play" video under the pressure of an aggressive Missouri pass rush.
#4: Vanderbilt finally gets a defensive or special teams touchdown, thanks in part to Missouri's own offensive shortcomings.
#5: Aside from one or two big plays, the Commodore defense runs stride for stride with Mizzou's, making that defensive/special teams touchdown the difference in a Vanderbilt win.
#6: We'll look back at the over/under at 35 points and laaaaaaugh.
The Pick: Vanderbilt 13, Missouri 12
The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: Auburn (+6.5) over ARKANSAS. The Tigers take this battle of disappointing teams after Bret Bielema attempts another penalty-inducing flop, only to land on the hoagie he'd been saving for the third quarter. Bielema is too despondent to make decisions afterwards, and Auburn rallies to a road win after the Razorbacks fail to figure out what their head coach is saying in between sobs.
Andrew VU '04:
Remember, there are many other ways to spend a Saturday. You can take the wife and kids to the zoo, work on fixing that leaky roof you've been putting off for three years, read a good book, work on your garden, volunteer at a local food bank, drink horse poison, murder a drifter...
However, you're reading this, and won't be doing any of these things (well, maybe the horse poison). You will be in front of a TV, watching Johnny McCrary throw end zone interceptions like he's on some NFL themed Mardi Gras float. You will be drinking. Heavily. You will be talking to the cops after the neighbors report gunfire coming from your den, as you will have shot your television.
You know all this, so I don't have to keep telling you. Either way, win or lose, this game is going to be brutal. South Carolina game brutal. Auburn v. Mississippi St. '08 brutal. Like watching two people with cerebral palsy arm wrestle. You know that the mere fact that you continue watching allows horrors like this to continue, but you can't look away.
Take solace in one thing, though: you are not VandyTigerPhD. Remember, he will have to watch this again in '16 for the self-inflicted suppurating wound that is his A Clockwork Vandy 2016 season preview series. Can the Ludovico technique defeat his desire to drink bleach? I think so, but I'm an unrepentant optimist.
The Pick: Vanderbilt 5, Missouri 6. A defensive touchdown will decide this one, as will a safety, and, somewhat improbably, a defensive field goal. The extra point kicker will be shot. Nobody's scoring nothin'.
The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: aTm (+6) over OLE MISS. The Fightin' Grode Jars put the final nail in the coffin of Ole Miss's playoff aspirations. Remember when losing close to Ole Miss-as-title-contender filled us with nothing but sunshine and rainbows? Then they had to go and lose to Memphis? Well, those days officially die tomorrow. aTm makes Chad Kelly go aTm.