Key Match-up: Commodores Defense vs Texas A&M Offense
It's been a while, but it's now time to begin breaking down this weekend's season opener for the Vanderbilt Commodores as they face off against the Aggies of Texas A&M in College Station.
Heading west, the Commodores have already gotten a break before they ever step foot on Texas soil. The fact that Kyle Field will only be at one-fourth capacity means that while it will still be a hostile environment, the noise level and shaking stadium won't factor in nearly as much.
However, the players wearing the maroon jersey's will be just as good, regardless of the crowd size.
What is the critical matchup for the Commodores defense in this one? It's simple, stop Aggies quarterback Kellen Mond, and you have a chance to upset a top-10 team on the road and open the season with a victory.
That's easy for me to write but looks more challenging in real life.
Last season Mond, accounted for 3,398 yards of total offense, good for second in the SEC in that category. While some felt his play slipped, that figure suggests just how good he could be in this his third season as the starter if last season was a down year.
Perhaps the most impressive number for Mond in 2019 was his 61.6 percent completion percentage. That percentage was a critical factor in the Aggies averaging 30.0 points per contest, suitable for sixth-best in the league behind Alabam, LSU, Auburn, Florida, and Georgia, who all put up video game numbers.
While his passing numbers are impressive, the thing that is likely keeping Vanderbilt defensive coordinator Ted Roof up nights this week is his running abilities.
Though the Aggies don't usually run Mond a lot, his ability to maneuver the pocket, escape pressure and extend plays is troublesome, and even though the Commodores have a veteran defensive unit, assignment football is a must against this type of athlete at quarterback,
Fans of the Aggies expect this team to be in the hunt for not only the SEC West crown but the conference title, and some even thinking of an outside shot at the college football playoffs.
That's not an unrealistic goal, though they must somehow find a way to get past a tough schedule along with Alabama and LSU.
Mond is the unquestioned leader for head coach Jimbo Fisher, and this appears to be the season the Aggies are pointing toward as the year they take the next step.
Vanderbilt is the first stone in that process in 2020, and while the Aggies are heavy favorites, if the Commodores can somehow find a way to control or even neutralize Mond, they could put a scare into the Aggies and their fans.