Saturday's Mississippi State game is make-it or break-it for Vanderbilt. Don't let the 10-point spread fool you. This will be a close game, and the Commodores could easily lose.
The Bulldogs are bigger, faster and stronger than we are. Anthony Dixon could start for any team in the SEC, including Florida. Pernell McPhee can be a dominating defensive lineman. And if you don't think a single D-lineman can dominate a game, look at what LSU's Rahim Alem did against Vandy last week: seven tackles, a sack and a tipped pass. He was the defensive player of the week in the SEC.
Last week, the Vanderbilt Hustler rated the Vandy offensive line ahead of the LSU offensive line, and called it a draw between the Vandy and LSU defensive lines. That's hilarious, though it wasn't so funny after LSU won the battle at both lines of scrimmage. I'm not putting down our athletes. We're better and deeper than we've ever been. Our big guys in the trenches played hard and well and they didn't lose the game for us. We were able to run the ball and Larry got off some nice passes. But overall, LSU won control of both lines of scrimmage. That was the difference in the game.
The Bulldogs aren't as good as LSU, but they've got big boys inside and man for man they've got better athletes than we do. I think we'll win because at this point we've got an established system and more experienced players and we're playing at home. But we've still got a very small margin of error. Some Vandy fans are talking about how mental mistakes cost us the LSU game. Oh really? So we beat Western Carolina because we made fewer mental mistakes in that game? It's funny how teams tend to make more mistakes against more talented teams.
Anyway, don't chalk this one up before it's over. I think our passing game will look much improved this week. The Bulldogs will try to mix it up, but if we can take an early lead and force them to go to the air, we could put it away early. Relf is a load to bring down, and as we know Lee can tuck it and run, especially on third down. But if the MSU quarterbacks have to throw to win, we should be in good shape. If we mess around with them and let them control the ball and the clock, we could be in trouble.
But I'm going to be optimistic: Part of me thinks we score four touchdowns in this one, and two in the air, to win 31-20. Now I'm going to be pessimistic: Every game I've ever predicted us to win by double digits, we lose.
So let's call it 20-13. Commodores.