LSU faces Vanderbilt in Nashville as both teams seek their first victory of the season. LSU leads the all-time series, 23-7-1. For games played in Nashville, the Tigers hold an advantage of 12-5. LSU has won the last eight meetings with Vanderbilt. These teams faced each other in Nashville last year, a 66-38 victory for LSU.
The lack of a huge number of contributors for LSU from last season showed against Mississippi State. Compounding those departures was the absence of consensus All-American Derek Stingley Jr. due to hospitalization in the evening before the game. As a result, K.J. Costello picked apart the Tigers’ depleted defense in record-setting fashion, piling up more than 600 yards through the air.
Opening the season at Texas A&M looked daunting for Vanderbilt. However, the Commodores hung close with the Aggies. Vandy only trailed by two at halftime and at the end of the third quarter. They took possession of the ball with 4:45 left in the game at their own 36 yard-line. However, they lost eight yards in three plays, then punted to the Aggies. Texas A&M ran out the clock to escape with the win.
Stopping Third Down Conversions
The Tigers’ defense continuously failed to halt Mississippi State’s drives. The Bulldogs succeeded in eight of their 16 third-down conversions. More disturbingly, MSU picked up a first down three times after needing ten or more yards on the play. Twice, the Bulldogs scored a touchdown on third down and ten or more yards for the conversion.
Vanderbilt did experience fewer glaring breakdowns on third down at College Station. The Aggies only succeeded four times on 10 third-down conversions. Also, none of those conversions required more than seven yards.
Helping New Quarterbacks
Vanderbilt presumably will want to run the ball frequently to reduce pressure on its freshman quarterback. Considering that Ken Seals started his first collegiate game on the road against an SEC team ranked in the top 25, he performed adequately. He completed 20 of 29 pass attempts for 150 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. However, he does not appear ready to put the weight of the offense on his shoulders yet.
LSU needs to bolster its running attack to help Myles Brennan. Despite his status as a redshirt junior, last Saturday was his first collegiate start. His offense struggled to run the ball. Three running backs each carried the ball seven times or more but none gained more than 50 yards. In total, Chris Curry, John Emery Jr., and Ty Davis-Price combined for 27 rushing attempts for only 107 yards. One or more of that trio must increase his numbers to let Brennan ease into his starting role.
Winning the Turnover Battle
Mississippi State’s turnovers kept LSU in the game. The Tigers’ first score resulted from Jabril Cox‘s returning an interception 14 yards to the endzone. Early in the fourth quarter, LSU’s defense picked off a pass and recovered a fumble to end two consecutive possessions of the Bulldogs. As a result, the Tigers erased a 10-point deficit and tied the score. However, Brennan’s interception late in the second quarter cost his team the chance to overcome MSU’s three-point advantage.
Vanderbilt won the turnover battle 3-2 which helped the Commodores to stay in the game at College Station. Their sole touchdown drive began after recovering a fumble at the Aggies’ 43-yard line. They recovered a fumble at their own 47-yard line early in the fourth quarter. That ended a 35-yard drive and let them stay within a touchdown. Unfortunately for Vandy, its offense had two eight-play drives shortcircuited in the second half due to throwing interceptions.
The Commodores must come out ahead in the turnover margin again this week. If they can protect the ball while taking it away from LSU a handful of times, they can pull off the upset. Conversely, LSU cannot afford to give away the ball and let Vandy hang around in this contest.
The result of the season-opener for LSU surprised many observers. The Tigers and their fans had expected to celebrate. The flag commemorating the 2019 national championship was unfurled and hoisted inside Tiger Stadium. The betting gurus had named LSU as the favorite by 15 points on average. Instead, they never managed to hold a lead over Mississippi State for more than three minutes of game time. They dropped below .500 for the first time since losing the season-opener versus Wisconsin at Lambeau Field in 2016.
Vanderbilt caught some attention during the Southeastern Conference’s opening weekend although for opposite reasons. The Commodores entered the contest against Texas A&M as underdogs in the 30-point range. Instead of serving as the Aggies’ punching bag, Vandy never trailed by double-digits. Were the Aggies looking ahead to the game at Alabama or are the Commodores more formidable than expected?
The loss to Mississippi State served as a wake-up call for LSU.
Prediction: LSU 30, Vanderbilt 13