No. 18 Kansas State vs Vanderbilt preview and prediction
The №18 ranked Kansas State Wildcats (2–0) travel to Nashville to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores (2–0) Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on ESPNU. These two teams meet up for the second time ever, and the first time since 1984 when Vanderbilt took home the win. Can Derek Mason and the Commodores be victorious in the first big test of 2017?
Vanderbilt is coming into week three fresh off an impressive 42–0 waxing of Alabama A&M. Sure, it may be a cupcake game, but it’s been a long time since we’ve seen such great offensive efficiency from the Commodores under Derek Mason. Quarterback Kyle Shurmur arguably had one of the most efficient games of his career by going 15-of-18 for 202 yards and four touchdowns. That’s a pretty big leap for Shurmur, who threw more interceptions than touchdowns in 2016. The Vanderbilt backfield showed that they are deeper than Ralph Webb, as running backs Jamauri Wakefield and Khari Blasingame combined for over 100 yards of rushing. Overall, the Commodores’ offense has not missed a beat in their first two games, and neither has Shurmur who has 76-percent of his passes completed and no interceptions this season.
Although the Vandy offense has shined in the past few weeks, their defense is stout once again under Mason. The Commodores have only allowed six points in their first two games and are tied for second in points against in the NCAA. Third down has consistently been their bread-and-butter as they have only had two third downs to be converted. Linebackers Charles Wright and Emmanuel Smith have been the glue of the front seven with 211 tackles and 4.5 sacks combined on the season. Tuesday Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder voiced his concerns with going up against the impressive defense. “They’ve got a few things they do with their defensive schemes that are somewhat a little bit unique and harder to prepare for,” stated Snyder. The most intriguing matchup on the field will come between the Wildcats offense and the Vandy defense on Saturday.
Kansas State has stormed out of the gates with two blowouts to start their 2017 season. They out-scored Central Arkansas and Charlotte by a combined score of 110–26. Wildcats quarterback Jesse Ertz has been the focal point of the electric offense. Ertz tallied 511 yards and four touchdowns in the first two games, along with completing 70-percent of his passes. The Kansas State rushing game has proven to be diverse, with five separate players with a touchdown on the ground this year. Starting running back Alex Barnes and Ertz have combined for 139 yards and three touchdowns rushing. The Wildcats’ offense is clearly the most dominant part of the Kansas State football team, but the defense has shown flashes of excellence as well.
On defense, Kansas State looked a little shaky after giving up 19 points to Central Arkansas, but they reeled it in week two by only giving up seven to Charlotte. Against Central Arkansas the Wildcats gave up over 400 yards, but they still created three turnovers. However, in week two against Charlotte, the Kansas State defense gave up just 168 yards and created three turnovers once again. Safety Kendall Adams has stepped up as a leader for the Wildcats defense after he scored two defensive touchdowns in week two. Special teams are also a strong suit for Kansas State as return man D.J. Reed has returned three kickoffs for an average of 45 yards. On punt returns Reed averages 37 yards a return with a touchdown.
Vanderbilt keys to success:
The Commodores offense will need to remain as efficient as they have in the first two weeks. The Kansas State secondary is largely untested this season, so opening up the Vandy run game to compliment Shurmur is ideal. Defensively, the Commodores will need to stay stout on third down and continue to shut down the run, the rest will fall into place.
Kansas State keys to success:
The Wildcats will need to have success running the ball, though it won’t be easy, to be able to aid Ertz in the pass game. On defense they have to manage to lock down the deep Vanderbilt backfield and force Shurmur to make plays with his arm. Shutting down the run will be the key to defeating the Commodores.
There is a solid chance that this could be one of the closest games of the weekend, especially since both teams have many similarities. Kansas State will have a tough time running the ball on the impressive Vandy front seven, but Ertz will balance out the offense with his throwing ability. The Commodores will have success running the ball, but Shurmur’s inconsistency will finally show in his first true test of the season. Still, Vanderbilt will get the upset in a tight 27–24 game in Music City.