Stanford vs. Vanderbilt Odds, Picks, Predictions: Betting Value on a First-Half Spread (Sept. 18)
Icon Sportswire/Getty Images. Pictured: Stanford receiver Elijah Higgins.
- The Stanford Cardinal travel to Nashville on Saturday to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores in Week 3 college football action.
- The Cardinal are coming off a big win, and Roberto Arguello sees value on them in this spot.
- Check out Arguello’s full preview and betting analysis for Stanford vs. Vanderbilt below.
Stanford vs. Vanderbilt Odds
-115o / -105u
-115o / -105u
The Vanderbilt Commodores host the Stanford Cardinal Saturday night in a matchup between two teams that got much-needed bounce back wins in Week 2 after laying an egg in Week 1.
The Cardinal sleepwalked through their season opener against Kansas State at Jerry World as they started senior Jack West at quarterback and lost 24-7 (with their lone touchdown coming on a drive led by redshirt freshman Tanner McKee in garbage time).
Coach David Shaw named McKee the starter in Week 2 at USC, and the Cardinal shocked the college football world as they upset the Trojans 42-28. Stanford led by as much as 42-13 in the fourth quarter before USC added points late, and the Trojans subsequently fired coach Clay Helton on Monday.
Vanderbilt also started with a disappointing loss as they were defeated at home by East Tennessee State 23-3. The Commodores fell behind 14-0 in Week 2 at Colorado State, but they rallied to score 21 consecutive points and made a game-winning field goal in the final moments to win 24-21.
Here’s everything bettors need to know as these teams fight for a second straight win.
The Cardinal offense did a complete 180 from Week 1 to Week 2 after McKee was inserted as the starting quarterback. McKee didn’t look like he was making his first start as he recorded a nearly-perfect 97.7 QBR and led the Cardinal to touchdown drives on five of their first eight drives to take a commanding 29-point lead.
He utilized his receivers’ height advantage to throw deep balls and back shoulder throws that went for completions or interference calls all night in the win.
While McKee showed he is more than capable of carrying the offense with his arm, doing a better job of establishing the running game will be key against Vanderbilt. The Cardinal got on the board against the Trojans with a one-play, 87-yard touchdown run by Nathaniel Peat.
This helped bring more Trojans into the box to prepare for the run, and it left the bigger Cardinal receivers in favorable one-on-one matchups on the outside that McKee exploited. However, the Cardinal rushed for just 1.86 yards per carry on their other 29 runs, and this was just one week after Stanford rushed for only 1.77 yards per carry against Kansas State.
If Stanford hopes to get a second straight road victory, they must get more push up front with their offensive line than they have consistently done through two games as they rank 121st in Rushing Success Rate and 123rd in Line Yards.
The Cardinal defense impressed in Week 2 as they were led by their young secondary and limited Kedon Slovis and company to just 5.3 yards per pass (compared to 10.2 yards per pass for McKee).
Although the Cardinal were without three contributors in the secondary against the Trojans (Jonathan McGill, Salim Turner-Muhammad, and Ethan Bonner – all three remain out this week), the rest of the back end held up nicely as the Cardinal were stingy against the USC Air Raid.
Kyu Blu Kelly made one of the plays of the game when he caught a deflected ball and returned it 31 yards to give Stanford a 28-13 lead in the third quarter. It was his second consecutive game with an interception as he has ascended in his junior season to become one of the best corners in the Pac-12.
— Stanford Rivals (@StanfordRivals) September 15, 2021
Kelly, corner Zahran Manley, and freshman nickel Jimmy Wyrick all made big plays to limit the USC receivers, and these three must step up to limit the big receivers for Vanderbilt like Chris Pierce Jr., Cam Johnson, and Will Sheppard.
The Vanderbilt offense hasn’t been explosive (124th in Big Play rate) and ranks outside the top 90 teams in both Rush Success and Pass Success rate, so if the Cardinal can limit the chunk plays to the big Vanderbilt receivers, their defense will give them a good chance to win and cover.
The Vanderbilt offense started slowly as it scored a total of three points over its first five quarters, but quarterback Ken Seals righted the ship as they rallied to score 24 points in the final three quarters in Week 2 to beat Colorado State.
The road win in Fort Collins was the first road win in two years for the Commodores, but can they back that up and snap a 13-game losing streak against Power Five foes on Saturday?
If the Commodores hope to cover or pull the upset, their offense needs to step up as they need to connect on big plays for chunk yardage while getting rushing contributions from the quarterback position.
Seals is capable of getting yards on the ground, and quarterback Mike Wright (who was out at Colorado State with an injury) will also be mixed in because his speed as a runner is another threat that the defense has to prepare for.
The Commodores’ offensive line will have trouble sustaining success against the Cardinal front as they rank 125th in Rush Success rate, so the quarterbacks will need to contribute on the ground while converting when there are open receivers downfield.
Seals missed on his deep throws in the first half against Colorado State, but he locked in during the second half as he was much more accurate when throwing to the likes of Pierce, Johnson, and Sheppard. If the Commodores pull the upset, it will be because these three step up and make plays.
If Vandy’s defense steps up and they cover or win outright, they need their edge play to improve. Vanderbilt’s two best players from last year’s defense, edge defenders Dayo Odeyingbo and Andre Mintze, both moved on to the NFL, and the rest of the defense sorely lacks playmakers, especially at the line of scrimmage.
The Commodore defense has yet to log a sack through two games, and this must change if they hope to stop McKee and the Cardinal passing attack.
After playing two games against an FCS team and a middling Mountain West team, the defense ranks 121st in Rushing Success rate, and they must step their game up against a much more talented Stanford offensive line and deep running backs group.
Stanford vs. Vanderbilt Matchup Analysis
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Stanford Offense vs. Vanderbilt Defense
Vanderbilt Offense vs. Stanford Defense
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Stanford vs. Vanderbilt Betting Pick
Vanderbilt has been out-gained on the ground by an average of 98.5 yards through their first two games of the season, and their inability to run the ball and stop the run will rear its ugly head when they face a more physical Stanford team on Saturday.
Expect the Cardinal, who won four straight road games to end last season, to pick up a sixth straight road victory in Nashville as they continue to embrace the Road Dogs mentality. While I’m normally hesitant to back double-digit road favorites in college football, this team is battle-tested enough to give me some reassurance there.
Road Dogs embrace the challenge 😤
— Stanford Football (@StanfordFball) September 15, 2021
The Cardinal will run the ball with more success than they have previously this season, and although the passing game may not be as in-sync as it was against USC, Stanford will have more than enough offensively to overwhelm the Vanderbilt defense that doesn’t have the talent on the line to make Stanford one-dimensional.
For Vanderbilt’s offense, the offensive line simply won’t get enough of a push to take the pressure off of Seals, and Seals hasn’t shown the decision-making and accuracy to move the ball consistently against this underrated Stanford defense.
The Cardinal secondary flashed last week, and Stanford is also strong up the middle with the likes of Thomas Booker on the line and Jacob Mangum-Farrar and Ricky Miezan at middle linebacker.
I like the Cardinal at -12 but am mildly concerned about a backdoor cover. Coach Shaw would rather try to bleed out the clock and minimize an opponent’s chances of getting the ball back than to try to win by as many points as possible.
Shaw also likes to accept the ball at the beginning of games when most other teams prefer to defer to the second half, so Stanford starts with the ball in an overwhelming majority of their games.
Consequently, I prefer the value on the Stanford first half spread at -6.5 as I expect the Cardinal to come out to a strong start and get ahead early. I would play this down to -6.5 at -140, but if it gets down to -7, play a six-point teaser with Stanford teased down to -6 and the Under teased up to 54.5 at -125 or better.