The Vanderbilt Commodores visit the Ole Miss Rebels on Saturday afternoon. Here are your three keys to a Commodore win.
1. WIN THE THE THIRD DOWN WAR
In the first three games combine Vanderbilt's defense held opponents to just 6 of 42 third-down conversions. Over the last three games that number has been 23 of 42. Meanwhile the VU offense has converted on just 28 of 80 third downs all season. The Commodores have to do better on third down on both sides of the ball against Ole Miss. Ole Miss has its own issues on third down, converting on 37 percent on offense this season. Against Alabama, they didn't convert on one third down. Defensively the Rebs are allowing opponents to convert on about 40 percent of third downs. There are a lot factors that go into winning or losing a football game. The third down conversion numbers are usually one of the biggest indicators of success or failure in a game, along with turnovers.
2. CONTROL SHEA PATTERSON
Patterson is one of the top passers in the country averaging almost 360 yards per game. He's got a sound touchdown to interception ratio with 13 TDs compared to just six interceptions. Vandy defended him well last season but that was the second or third start of his career. The Commodores need to respect his abilities and not assume it will be as easy as it was last season. If the Commodores can get a big sack of Patterson early that might set the tempo for the game and keep the still young quarterback hearing footsteps.
3. PLAY CLEAN FOOTBALL
Avoiding dumb penalties, like a delay of game penalty on the first drive of the game, need to be avoided. Holding calls are hard to avoid because every crew defines holding differently depending on who you are playing. However, unsportsmanlike conduct calls, concentration calls like offsides or not enough men on the line of scrimmage, are killers. You are going to have one or two of those every game but VU needs to keep that stuff to a minimum. Avoiding and preventing turnovers is another part of playing clean football. Vandy has excelled in that area so far this season just two lost fumbles and one interception. Defensively, Vandy must finish when opponents cough up the ball. The 'Dores have recovered just one of eight opponent fumbles so far this season. Special teams is another one. Shanked punts and missed field goals are almost like turnovers, along with the return game.
Saturday's game at Ole Miss kicks off at 2:30 pm CT and can be seen on the SEC Network.