Vanderbilt (4-3) at (14) Texas A&M (5-2)
Saturday, October 26, 12:21 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Nicholas DeLorenzo, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: After suffering a heartbreaking defeat a week ago, the 14th-ranked Texas A&M Aggies will attempt to rebound when they return home to square off against the Vanderbilt Commodores in SEC action on Saturday afternoon.
Vanderbilt has had an inconsistent start to the season at 4-3, but it was able to capture an outstanding 31-27 home triumph over Georgia last Saturday, effectively ousting the Bulldogs from the latest AP poll.
"We played with tremendous passion and emotion, probably similar to what we've played in the two previous years," Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin said. "We had a big chip on our shoulder ... (I) don't think we win that game without playing with that type of passion and emotion."
"We're really excited about going to play Texas A&M in College Station," he continued. "I do think it has a reputation of being one of the best places in all of college football. Crowd noise will be significant this week so we will have the speakers blaring at practice."
While Vanderbilt was on the positive side of an upset-laden weekend, Texas A&M experienced the opposite fate, falling at home to No. 24 Auburn on a last- second field goal, 41-38. The setback dropped the Aggies to 5-2 overall and 2-2 in the SEC.
"We got a lot of football left. There's no telling what can happen," Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin said. "We got to keep playing and we can't dwell on this (loss to Auburn), we got to move on, but we also got to look honestly at where we are and how we're going to approach things from here on out."
This bout marks the first meeting between these two schools on the football field.
Vanderbilt is in the midst of its best offensive season in school history, posting averages of 33.3 ppg and 412.4 ypg, but those numbers could take a hit this weekend without its starting quarterback.
Austyn Carta-Samuels (.655 completion percentage, 1,672 yards, 15 total TDs, seven INTs) suffered a leg injury last week and is listed as doubtful for this contest. Patton Robinette saw his first extended action of the year in place of Carta-Samuels and completed 9-of-15 passes for 107 yards with an interception, and his head coach hopes that a week of preparation with the starters will have him more in tune this time around.
"We put such an emphasis on preparation and I think you should always be prepared for the job that you have, whether it's off the field or on the field," Franklin said. "I think the fact that (Robinette) played last week and the experience, he's probably preparing a little different this week depending on how this situation plays out."
The Commodores have one of the best receivers in the nation on their side in Jordan Matthews (798 yards, five TDs), who is fresh off a career-best 11 receptions last week to give him an SEC-high 58 for the season. Matthews is second in SEC history in catches with 208, and he is only 13 yards behind Georgia's Terrence Edwards for the conference record in receiving yards (3,093).
Jerron Seymour leads the Vandy backfield charge with 426 rushing yards and eight touchdowns, while Wesley Tate (281 yards, four TDs) also sees plenty of action.
Defensively, Vanderbilt has been a disappointment this season, ranking eighth in the SEC in points allowed (26.6 ppg), although it sits fifth in yards allowed (365.9 ypg).
Kenny Ladler has logged a team-high 58 tackles to go with two forced fumbles, while Caleb Azubike has done a nice job of penetrating the line of scrimmage with 7.5 TFL.
Texas A&M boasts one of the country's most explosive offensive attacks, ranking third in the nation in total offense (588.7 ypg) and fourth in scoring offense (46.9 ppg).
Johnny Manziel is having another Heisman-caliber campaign, as he presently ranks second in the FBS in completion percentage (.733) while throwing for 2,289 yards, 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He has also run for 486 yards and six additional scores. Manziel posted more than 500 yards of total offense for the fifth time in his career in last week's loss, but he injured his shoulder late in the game and appeared bothered by it down the stretch. He is listed as questionable for this tilt, and while it would be a surprise if he didn't suit up, Matt Joeckel or Kenny Hill would step up in his absence.
Manziel has displayed outstanding chemistry with wide receiver Mike Evans, who ranks second in the FBS in both receiving yards (1,024) and yards per catch (23.8), while scoring nine touchdowns. His historic 287-yard performance against Auburn was a school record and the third most in SEC single-game history.
"As I said after the first game of the year, (Evans) is one of the better players in the country," Sumlin said of Evans, who also caught four touchdowns last week. "And I think people are starting to realize that because he's a big guy that has home run ability but will compete for the ball in any kind of traffic."
Ben Malena, Tra Carson and Trey Williams are strong complements to Manziel in the rushing attack. Malena has 387 yards and nine touchdowns (one receiving), while Carson (254 yards, four TDs) and Williams (217 yards, three TDs) have also made the most of their limited touches.
Defensively, the Aggies have not been up to snuff this season, nearly allowing teams to keep pace with their record-setting offense by allowing 33.9 ppg and 494.4 ypg. Both numbers rank dead last in the SEC.
Deshazor Everett and Tommy Sanders have each picked off a pair of passes, while Howard Matthews has 47 tackles to lead the team. The unit has virtually no pass rush to speak of, recording just seven sacks in seven games.
Vanderbilt is riding high after its strong win last Saturday, but while it was able to topple an injury-riddled Georgia squad in Nashville, it will have a much more difficult task in trying to defeat an angry A&M club on the road. Figure Manziel to tough out his injury and put forth another monster effort to get the Aggies back in the win column.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Texas A&M 45, Vanderbilt 34
10/23 10:37:59 ET