Coming Attractions: MSU at Vanderbilt

Sept. 18, 2009

Purchase Football Tickets  |  2009 Gameday Central

An inside look at the storylines and players you need to know for Saturday's marquee SEC matchup.

Setting the Stage--Storylines:

  • The Vanderbilt Commodores have a very good problem: A surplus of capable running backs. Case in point--true freshman Warren Norman, who ran for over 100 yards and two touchdowns against Western Carolina, didn't even get a carry last week, with redshirt junior Kennard Reeves and true freshman Zac Stacy getting the bulk of the workload. Stacy has established himself as the ground game's preemptive threat, and it will be interesting to see how Vanderbilt distributes the carries behind him this week.

  • With redshirt senior safety and captain Ryan Hamilton going down for the season, all eyes will be on redshirt senior Joel Caldwell, who will be stepping in for Hamilton at the starting safety spot. Caldwell performed well last week when called upon (he had an interception called back on a penalty) and looks to build on that performance this week in his first start since his redshirt freshman year when he was a corner.

  • Though redshirt sophomore quarterback Larry Smith played pretty well against LSU, he was let down on several occasions by wide receiver miscues. A breakout performance by any of Vanderbilt's pass catchers could go a long way toward making Vanderbilt's offense a multidimensional threat.

  • Vanderbilt sure didn't look lost without last year's star corner D.J. Moore on Saturday, with a breakout performance by sophomore Casey Hayward (career-high 13 tackles) preventing the Tiger passing game's big play. If Hayward can keep it up, pass defense will remain a disruptive force for the Commodores.

  • The A-List--Noteworthy Mississippi State players:

    Anthony Dixon, junior running back
    The Bulldog offense lives and dies through Dixon, who is not only their workhorse out of the backfield but is also the team's most imposing offensive force. After sitting out Mississippi State's opener, he looked sharp in his personal 2009 debut, rushing for 92 yards and a touchdown against Auburn. If Vanderbilt can contain him, it should be a long day for the Bulldogs.

    Tyson Lee (senior) and Chris Relf (redshirt sophomore), quarterbacks
    Head coach Dan Mullen is employing a two-quarterback system to start the season with Lee, the incumbent, sharing snaps under center with Relf, who leads to Bulldogs in rushing so far this season. The pair has been solid if unspectacular thus far, but must rebound from a collective subpar performance against Auburn through the air (11-21, 130 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs) to give themselves a chance against Vanderbilt's talented--if depleted--secondary.

    K.J. Wright, junior linebacker
    Wright put together a breakout campaign as a sophomore for the Bulldogs, registering 72 tackles (second on the team) and pacing Mississippi State with four sacks. He has been impressive so far this season with 10 total tackles (2 for a loss) and a sack, and if Vanderbilt wants to walk away with a W, their offensive line needs to make sure Wright stays away from Smith.

    Heath Hutchins, junior punter
    If this game turns into a field position battle, the Bulldogs have a weapon in Hutchins. The JUCO transfer has been phenomenal thus far, averaging 46.1 yards on eight punts for the defensive-minded club. A solid return game by Alex Washington would help the Commodores negate Hutchins's effectiveness.



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