Time: 6:30 p.m. CT/7:30 p.m. ET
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Last Time We Met...: The Big 8 existed. It’s been a while, alright? Kansas State fell to Vanderbilt 26-14 on September 8, 1984.
Spread: Kansas State opened as 3.5-point favorites. The line at Bovada is (-4) in favor of the Wildcats.
O/U: The total started at 48. It’s at 49 at Bovada. Other locales have it at 49.5.
The Vanderbilt Commodores are off to a 2-0 start in the 2017 college football season. This type of thing hasn’t happened too often in Nashville over the past few years. The last time it did, in fact, was back in 2011. James Franklin was still the head coach, and the Commodores actually got off to a 3-0 start that season before eventually landing in the Liberty Bowl.
Apart from that, these types of starts are rare. There was the 5-0 start in 2008 and the 4-0 start in 2005, but that’s it for the 21st century. Indeed, a fast start like this isn’t something we’ve seen in the 2000s. But credit to Derek Mason and the Commodores themselves, they’ve been able to make it happen.
For the Kansas State Wildcats, meanwhile, these types of starts aren’t unheard of. They’ve almost become customary. Since 2010, they’ve been 2-0 to start the season six times, including this season. Bill Snyder is Bill Snyder, and you typically know what you’re going to get from K-State year in and year out. The Wildcats scored 110 points in total against Central Arkansas and Charlotte, 55 in each game. They only allowed 26 points, so the defense was certainly prepared.
This Big 12-SEC showdown will take place in Nashville, providing an intriguing backdrop for an under-the-radar matchup. Vandy could very well be 3-0 going into their premier matchup next week against Alabama if they emerge victorious. We shall see what happens next.
The name of the game is defense
Opponent not withstanding, Vanderbilt’s defense has gotten off to a fast start. Defensively, the team ranks 2nd in Success Rate, 11th in Field Position and 7th in Fishing Drives. They rank 8th in Rushing Success Rate, 37th in Stuff Rate and 34th in Opportunity Rate. The pass defense is 2nd in Success Rate and 38th in IsoPPP. Their Overall Havoc Rate of 31 percent is tops in college football. They’ve gotten pressure from just about everywhere.
None of this should be too surprising given the makeup of the defense. It’s predominantly seniors and juniors. Only four freshmen have taken snaps this season and just two sophomores have seen the field. Apart from that? Experience rules the field.
Dare Odeyingbo and Charles Wright have been the main forces of terror. The duo have combined for 9.0 TFL and 6.5 sacks. Four of them belong to Wright, as the junior linebacker has been nothing short of spectacular.
This should provide an interesting test against K-State. Partially because their Sack Rate this season is, literally, 0.00%. It’s that way on Standard Downs and on Passing Downs. To put it simply: Jesse Ertz (and to a lesser extent, Skylar Thompson) have been slippery in the pocket. Ertz knows his way around the block and can get loose if he wants to. He’s averaged 6.5 yards per carry through the Wildcats’ first two games of the season. It will be imperative for Vandy to keep up the goods on defense on Saturday night. To this point? They’ve shown that they can make that happen.
Well, maybe not so much for K-State
On the flipside, Kansas State’s defense hasn’t exactly shown a lot. While they won in blowout fashion against Central Arkansas and Charlotte, the numbers aren’t exactly in their favor. On the ground, their defense is allowing a Success Rate of 45 percent, 4.3 percent higher than the FBS average. Through the air, it’s at 51.7 percent, a gaudy 11.9 percent higher than the FBS average.
That might play into the hand of what looks like a pretty solid passing attack. Kyle Shurmur has yet to throw an interception. He’s completed 76.1 percent of his passes at a Y/A of 10.5. Their Passing Success Rate is second-best in the country at 77.4 percent. If Shurmur can continue these good vibes, they might have a field day picking apart the Wildcat defense. Jared Pinkney and Trent Sherfield figure to get a hoard of the targets as does C.J. Duncan.
Vanderbilt 24, Kansas State 17