Three Keys: Vanderbilt-East Tennessee
Even though there is no spread on this game from Vegas, Vanderbilt is a favorite, though not an overwhelming one because of how poorly the Commodores have played offensively down the stretch.
It still won't be easy for the Commodores when the host East Tennessee State on Saturday. Both teams are run heavy and both have issues passing the football. Both teams have defenses that are better than their offenses and have kept their team in games when their offenses have failed them.
What will it take for the Commodores to scratch out this much needed win?
1) Seniors Last Home Stand: This is the last home game for Riley Neal in a COmmodores uniform, and the grad transfer has been less than advertised in his one season in black & gold.
It's time for the real Neal to show up and make some plays with his star receiver and tight end. Neither he nor Kalijah Lipscomb or Jared Pinkney have produced much this season and this is their last chance to do it inside Vanderbilt Stadium and change at least some of the legacy they will leave behind from this season.
Neal, Pinkney, Lispcomb and Ke'Shawm Vaughn need to have their breakout game of the season in this one and walk off that field with their fellow seniors victorious in their last game.
2) STOP THE RUN: ETSU can run the football. They are averaging 205.1 yards per game on the ground this season. On the other side, Vanderbilt has struggled stopping the run, including last week when Kentucky rolled up over 400 yards on the ground with an offense that can't throw the football.
Quay Holmes leads the Bucs run game and is a solid back who can handle a lot of carries (36 in one game this season) and will likely be at, or near that number in this one if the visitors from Johnson City are to have a chance to win.
How well the Vanderbilt front seven handles Holmes and the Bucs ground game will be a big key, because the Bucs passing attack is like Kentucky's, but with less talented athletes.
3) SPECIAL TEAMS: The Commodores special teams have not been terrible, but have also not been anything special at the same time. THis could be the game where they block a couple punts, retur a punt or kickoff for a score and turn the game around.
Those type plays in these types of games can be big, especially for a team that needs this win in the worst way.