jalen hurts qb alabama secIt’s West vs East in the SEC this week with three football games featuring cross-division rivals, but perhaps the most interesting duel is the one featuring the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Vanderbilt Commodores.

Vanderbilt possesses the number one defense in the country as it allows 4.3 points per game over three games. They also are number one in passing yards allowed per game (95.3) and total yards allowed with 198.

Of course, they produced those stats against teams that are nowhere as talented as the Crimson Tide. Their first three opponents were Middle Tennessee, Alabama A & M, and Kansas State, which scored only seven points last week in Nashville.

This week Vanderbilt starts a tough five-game stretch as it will then face the Florida Gators (1-1) in Gainesville, the Georgia Bulldogs (3-0) at home, Ole Miss (2-1) on the road and the South Carolina Gamecocks (2-1) at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia.

The Commodores defense will definitely be key in the duel against Alabama and quarterback Jalen Hurts. They have to make him throw the football because although we have seen some progression from him spreading the ball around a little more, he feeds off his running game.

Limiting Hurts’ running ability will be a deciding factor as he is more prone to making mistakes when he’s throwing the ball down the field. This year Hurts has rushed for 312 yards, scored three rushing touchdowns and run for over 100 yards in two of the season’s first three games and as a result, Alabama has yet to turn the ball over.

Alabama has several other playmakers that could make life miserable for Vanderbilt, mainly wide receiver Calvin Ridley, who has stepped up in previous games and totals 15 receptions for 219 yards and two touchdowns this season.

It’s going to be interesting to see how Alabama spreads the ball around in order to keep Vanderbilt’s stinging defense off balance. Are they going to keep it basic or is Nick Saban going to try some new things that opposing defenders haven’t seen yet this season?

Regardless of Saban’s decision expect Vanderbilt to be ready for them. The Commodores have won five straight games in Nashville led by a solid defense that has gotten better over the last few weeks.

Offensively Vanderbilt’s quarterback Kyle Shurmur has matured into of the best passers in the SEC this season (he leads the SEC with a quarterback rating of 91.0), so don’t expect Vanderbilt to be shut down in this game in Nashville like they were in 2011 in Tuscaloosa, where they lost 34-0.

Despite Vanderbilt’s improvements we don’t expect the Commodores to get their first win against Alabama since 1984. Vanderbilt has not won in Nashville against Alabama since 1969 and they will fail to do so again this season as Alabama will prove too good and win 31 – 13.


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