Week 3 Preview: Vanderbilt vs. Massachusetts

Oh, Vandy. Through two games the season, Vanderbilt and new coach Derek Mason have been outscored by opponents 78-10.

It’s got to be a bit disappointing for the Commodore faithful. Coming off back-to-back nine win seasons, there shouldn’t be a big fallout, right? RIGHT? I mean, we got Stephen Rivers coming in to lead the offense. The guy went to LSU. He’s been around a few years; he is going to be savvy, efficient, a veteran… right?

To this point, Rivers is 18-50 with zero touchdowns and two interceptions. In the never ending drama, Rivers may not even be the starting quarterback come kickoff. Derek Mason is holding a FOUR man competition this week in practice.

UMass is – almost undoubtedly – the worst team on Vanderbilt’s schedule. They play the normal SEC slate, plus Charleston Southern and Old Dominion. ODU gave NC State a handful last week,  and is putting up 486.5 yards per game. Charleston Southern shouldn’t be much, but the Big Sky team is 2-0. The MAC has been giving “power conference” teams a run for their money. In some cases, like Central Michigan/Purdue last week, they have dominated games.

I fear, for Vandy’s sake, that the Minutemen from Massachusetts may come into Nashville on their first road trip of the year and make things closer than Derek Mason would like them to be. After dropping a three score loss to Boston College in week one, UMass came back last week and took Colorado to the wire before finally falling 41-38.

38 points is almost four times over what Vanderbilt has scored the entire season (10).

Offensively, I think Vandy may finally get on somewhat of the same page. What basis I have to make that? Not much. Maybe play the odds? They are due for a “bigger” day (wishful thinking). To this point in the season, the only points the Vanderbilt offense has mustered up is a field goal against the second-string Ole Miss defense. The seven points in their first game against Temple was a special teams blunder. That said, UMass hasn’t stopped anyone, you’d like to think some of the “SEC Speed” of a Ralph Webb or Steven Scheu should be able to break a big play or two. The Minutemen have given up 71 points through two games; they are about as far from a defensively sound team as it comes. Almost as far as Vanderbilt, for example.

I’d like to give Vanderbilt some benefit of the doubt here. Ole Miss is seemingly a pretty good team. But a 37-7 loss to Temple, who then turned and lost to Navy the following week at home, doesn’t leave a whole lot of arguing space. The issue – one of them at least – for Vanderbilt has been passing defense.

6’4″ junior WR Taje Sharp could give the Commodore secondary fits on Saturday. He was good for 130 yards last week against Colorado. Quarterback Blake Frohnapfel has had moments, but his completion percentage is still below 50%. Withstanding, there’s nothing like a game of nothing to lose to bring out the best of a performance.

I think Vanderbilt pulls away with this one, but I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if the Minutemen cover the 17 point spread. The game starts at 12:00 EST, on Watch ESPN.

*Section Photo credit to ; Featured Photo (above) credit to Brian Powers, Associated Press

Curtis Lepore Talks All Things College Sports
Curtis Lepore Talks All Things College Sports