NASHVILLE, Tenn. – 0-11. That is Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason’s record against SEC opponents is his year and a half as leader of the Commodores.
Vanderbilt is at about as big of a disadvantage in their conference in any team in the country. It’s a school with no football tradition stuck right in the middle of a conference that prides itself on it. There is not a coach in the country that envies Derek Mason’s job right now, but even at Vanderbilt, eventually something’s gotta give, right?
There have been a few favorable matchups for Vanderbilt to grab that coveted conference victory. Last week’s matchup against a struggling South Carolina team in its first game without Steve Spurrier was one of the chances, but the Commodores still came up short in Columbia by a score of 19-10.
So another week and another conference foe means yet another opportunity for Derek Mason to finally get rid of that pesky goose egg in the conference win column.
On Saturday, Vanderbilt will face the Missouri Tigers, who have looked like anything but a team coming off two consecutive championships in the SEC East. The Tigers are 4-3 in 2015, with a 1-3 record in conference play—that win coming against the Gamecocks.
The true plight of Missouri has com from the struggles on offense. The Tigers have scored only nine points in their last two games and rank 14th out of 14 SEC teams in total offense this season. The tumultuous offensive performance from the Tigers this season, has largely been due to the absence of starting quarterback Maty Mauk, who is currently suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules.
Mauk came into the year as the unquestioned leader of this Missouri squad and one of the most experienced quarterbacks returning to the SEC in 2015.
Missouri shouldn’t expect to find its footing on offense against the Vanderbilt defense.
The Commodores rank sixth in the conference in total defense, sitting behind nationally elite defenses such as Alabama, Florida and LSU. Vanderbilt also leads the conference in pass defense. Vanderbilt shouldn’t give up many points on Saturday, and consequently, starting quarterback Johnny McCrary and the Vanderbilt offense, which hasn’t been spectacular in its own right, won’t have to do a lot of scoring to get Vanderbilt the win at home.
Vanderbilt has what it takes to beat Missouri. The Commodores just can’t afford to beat themselves.
Turnovers were exactly what cost Vanderbilt the chance to get a win last weekend over South Carolina. Mason’s squad turned the ball over five times, and the turnovers have plagued the Commodores this season. Vanderbilt has been one of the worst teams in that department, ranking 123rd out of 128 FBS teams in turnover margin.
Vanderbilt is already out-matched talent wise in most SEC match ups, the last thing the Commodores need to be in their own worst enemy.
If the turnovers can get cleaned up, then this Vanderbilt team can pause the restlessness in Nashville, if only for one week. The matchup against Missouri sets up nicely for the Commodores, and Vanderbilt not only can but (BOLD Prediction Alert) will get the victory over the Tigers on Saturday for the long awaited first SEC win of the Derek Mason era.