Answering six key questions about Vanderbilt for the Missouri game
VandySports.com's Chris Lee answers six key questions about the Commodores heading into Saturday's matchup with Missouri.
1. The line is set at -13 1/2 for Missouri. Is that line too low? To high? Or is it just right and why do you think so?
For a team that hasn't covered in any of five games yet, it's certainly hard to say it's too high. Five games in, the Commodores still haven't put together consecutive good halves in a game and mostly have been a bad football team.
The question is, is there something better in there for Vandy? Certainly, I thought this was a better team than it has shown.
So, if both are the teams we've seen so far, I think Missouri wins by more than that.
2. It sounds like Will Sheppard is getting talked about in the same way Luther Burden III is getting talked about. What about his game makes him such a good weapon for Vandy?
They're different players; Burden is a lot more explosive with the ball in his hands, while Sheppard is a great red zone target who has a fantastic catch radius. And yes, Sheppard can make long plays, too, but they're not like Burden's where a lot of it can be run-after-the-catch.
However, Sheppard has disappeared for much of the last two weeks. The Commodores absolutely have to get him going again to have a shot at an upset.
3. Vandy is ranked 35th in passing offense, but AJ Swann is completing just 53% of his passes and has 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions. What does Swann do well and then what seems to be the issues he has to work on?
Swann's talented. The arm strength is there. He can complete a ball 50 yards in the air or get it in a tight spot if needed.
But Swann has also developed some bad habits. He'll throw into double coverage. He'll lock on a receiver and stare him down, which led to a pick-6 last week. Lately, coach Clark Lea has been increasingly vocal about Swann's holding the ball too long. And now, Swann's accuracy has waned and there are also questions about the health of his right arm.
Does Swann have the talent to figure it out? Certainly. But the issues are more with discipline and bad habits and it feels like the leash is getting short here.
4. Is there any aspect of the game or position battle that you think favors Vandy? Why or why not?
Vanderbilt ranks 12th in special teams according to SP+. It has an outstanding punter in Matt Hayball and a dynamic kick returner in Jayden McGowan. And when someone is getting the ball to Sheppard, McGowan and London Humphries in the air downfield, all can make huge plays.
I think Vanderbilt probably has an advantage in the first, and as for the latter, well, we'll see; Missouri's got an outstanding defensive backfield and Kentucky shut those guys down last week.
5. For Vandy to win this game, what are a couple of things it absolutely has to do correctly?
It's got to play to its strengths (see above), have the best game out of its pass defense that it's had all year and mostly, stop the turnovers. Vanderbilt's had nine of them the last three games; an astonishing four have come back for turnovers and three more have put opponents inside the 19.
6. What's your prediction? It doesn't have to include a score if you don't want to, but how do you see this one going?
If all above goes right--and it hasn't been close to happening all year--Vandy's got a chance. And the Commodores played this one close a year ago, so, there's that. But realistically, we'll have to see something from Vandy we just haven't come close to seeing at what Saturday will be the halfway point.
The Tigers are better on defense and far better with the ball on offense, so, Missouri's the pick.