Happy Election Day! Today is a day to celebrate just how great America is to have a democratic process where you get a say in your government, no matter if that say is a bag of heaping trash or, a bag of heaping trash. Anyway, much like you all, I’m tired of political TV ads so I’ll gladly send those into oblivion, maybe even more than I want to send Derek Mason into oblivion. Moving on!
Vanderbilt takes on Mississippi State on Saturday. Game is on SEC Network at 2:30 CT/3:30 ET. I have been dying to see Mike Leach in the SEC for some time. I know he’s a polarizing figure as a person (and quite frankly I believe it likely he’s an abusive jacka$$), but his teams are usually fun to watch and when they are clicking the offense is virtually unstoppable. Last year at Washington State the Cougars averaged 37.8 ppg and 505 yards of offense per game, which is absurd. They were fifth in the nation in Yard Per Play averaging 7.14 behind Oklahoma, LSU, Alabama, and Clemson, and Anthony Burrow, their starting QB averaged 429.2 YPG with 48 TDs to 16 INTs. Yes I hear you PAC-12 PAC-12, but impressive numbers nonetheless. Of course, now we get a chance to see the Pirate against SEC defenses, and well, the early returns are not good.
Since the September 26th match where QB K.J. Costello set an SEC record for passing yards in a game (623) against what was believed to be a similarly situated LSU as the natty team last year (they are not), Clanga is averaging about 200 net yards passing per game give or take. Even if put the LSU game in they are average 318.6 passing yards per game, a total right around Mike Leach’s first team at Washington State in 2012. Part of the problem has been that RS Senior QB K.J. Costello has been a turnover machine in a pass heavy offense, the other part is that he just got injured and backup QB Will Rogers hasn’t really taken the full reigns. Of course it’s one thing to throw 4 picks to Kentucky, and it’s another entirely to take on Alabama. It’s unclear which of these two QBs we’ll see at this time.
Additionally, as Phil Steele pointed out, Clanga ran the ball 63% of the time last year, while Leach passed the ball 77% of the time. Since Leach obviously ain’t the one changing, the result is that Mississippi State’s best player, Kylin Hill, has been used very little, which has resulted in his decision to opt out (not opt out?). Point being is that running the ball is not very important in this offense as the ability to do it to set up the pass, which the backs to catch the ball out of the back field. The player most used in the RB corp is Jo’quavious Marks, who has 31 carries for 121 yards, and 31 catches for 139, thus averaging less than 5 yards of offense per touch.
Mississippi State does have a solid receiver in Osiris Mitchell, who led the team last year in receiving. Much of the rest of the corps are transfers or guys who have sat and waited their turn (JaVonta Payton and Austin Williams), but thus far the decision making of their QBs has limited their production.
All that is well and good, but Vanderbilt ranks 98th out of 103 teams who have played in team passing efficiency, 88th in pass defense, and they are giving up 9 yards per attempt, which isn’t bottom barrel, but it isn’t good. Plus it is sounding like Donovan Kaufman may be done for the year, which isn’t helping our cause.
Some good news is that Mississippi State isn’t very good at protecting the quarterback as its line struggles with a system change. That being said, we only have five sacks on the year, so that isn’t great. But we do have some talent on the defensive line so hopefully they can have a little fun back there. (I’m trying guys).
All that being said! This is probably Vanderbilt’s best chance for a win. Mississippi State is reeling right now and there has been plenty of smoke around the notion that the players on the roster don’t love their new coach. So while we have not played well at all since basically Texas A&M, Derek Mason and Ted Roof REALLY need to show a good gameplan. Vandy is -3 in turnover margin on the year, and this is a really good game to get that back to the plus side. If we do that, we’ve got a chance to pick up a victory.