When: Saturday, November 5, 2016
Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, Al.
Time: 12:00 p.m., ET
Radio: ESPN Radio, Auburn Sports Network
Odds: Auburn is currently 26-point favorites, via OddsShark.
The Auburn Tigers (6-2, 4-1) return home this weekend to host the Vanderbilt Commodores (4-4, 1-3) in an important SEC matchup. A Tiger win would allow them to keep pace with Alabama in the SEC West until the two teams meet in the regular season finale on November 26.
For Vanderbilt, this is all about becoming bowl eligible. In Derek Mason’s third season as head coach, he has an outstanding opportunity to go bowling for the first time in 2016. The Commodores have four games remaining, but winning in Jordan-Hare is no small task.
Surprisingly, both teams enter this one on multiple-game winning streaks. The Tigers have won five in a row, which has pushed them to No. 9 in the country in the latest poll. Vandy has won two in a row for the first time in Mason’s three years. Two weeks ago, the Commodores picked up their biggest win in years with a shocking victory at Georgia.
The Tigers are ranked No. 3 in the country in rushing offense, averaging over 303 yards per game at a clip of 5.5 yards per carry. In the Tigers’ 56-3 massacre of Arkansas two weeks ago, they ran for an astounding 543 yards and seven touchdowns.
The efficient Sean White leads Auburn’s offense and he’s completing 69 percent of his passes and rarely turns the ball over. Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson have combined to rush for 1,513 yards and 15 touchdowns through eight games. Both players are capable of big plays every time they touch the football.
Auburn’s rushing attack is complemented nicely by a solid defense. Overall, the Tigers are ranked No. 30, and are 27th versus the run. Defensive end Carl Lawson leads a talented defensive line with 7.5 sacks and 21 quarterback hits.
Ralph Webb is the leader of Vandy’s offense. The junior running back is second in school history with over 2,900 yards and counting in his career. This season, Webb has rushed for 855 yards and is averaging over five yards per attempt.
For Vandy to win this game, Webb will need help from quarterback Kyle Shurmur. The 6’4” sophomore has had his share of struggles this season, passing for over 149 yards just one time. In their last win over Tennessee State, Shurmur had one of his more efficient performances of the season, completing 15 of 23 passes for 143 yards and a score. On the season, he has completed just 53 percent of his throws for only four touchdowns.
The one good thing Vandy does on offense is take care of the football. Shurmur has been picked off just three times. On the season, the team has just seven turnovers, fewer than any other SEC team.
So, what happens?
Don’t expect another miracle for the Commodores in this one. While Vandy is playing well lately, Auburn is more talented and playing at an extremely high level. A strong Auburn defense will make things tough for Vandy’s offense. Shurmur could turn the ball over a few times in this one if his offensive line doesn’t adequately protect him. He’s been sacked 17 times on the season and that will be something to watch on Saturday.
Lawson could live in Vandy’s backfield this weekend.
For all of its struggles on offense, Vanderbilt is better on the defensive side of the ball. While that unit isn’t elite either, it does keep the Commodores in games. They’ll need a strong effort against Auburn’s potent rushing attack to have a chance in this one.
Don’t expect an upset in Auburn on Saturday. It may be close early, but the Tigers will wear down Vandy late in the first half and blow it wide open in the second half.
Prediction: Auburn 42, Vanderbilt 13