Vanderbilt defense gets a much tougher non-conference challenge this week

When Kyle Woestman started to watch film in preparation of Saturday’s game against Alabama-Birmingham, the junior defensive end quickly recognized Blazers’ running back Greg Franklin. The two played against one other when they were high school stars in Marietta, Ga.

“I was pretty excited to see him on film because it’s always kind of fun to face somebody you played in high school,” Woestman said.

Most of the rest of what he saw likely was not nearly as entertaining.

For the first time this season, Vanderbilt faces a non-conference opponent with an offense that is better than terrible. The Blazers (1-2), in fact, average more than the Commodores (2-2) in both total offense and points per game.

That’s a far cry from Austin Peay and UMass, both of which rank at or near the bottom of their respective divisions. Austin Peay is 118th in total offense among the 122 schools in the Football Championship Subdivision and dead last in scoring offense. UMass is 120th and tied 121st, respectively, among the 123 Football Bowl Subdivision programs.

A comparison of key per game statistics between UAB and Vanderbilt’s previous two non-conference opponents:

UAB 33.3, UMass 7.0, Austin Peay 3.3

UAB 19, UMass 15.3, Austin Peay 11.5

UAB 170.0, UMass 96.5, Austin Peay 108.8

UAB 229.0, UMass 162.0, Austin Peay 105.8

UAB 399.0, UMass 258.5, Austin Peay 214.5

UAB 29:29, UMass 27:04, Austin Peay 32:00

“[UAB] has a good running game, a couple good backs in Franklin and [Darrin Reeves],” Woestman said. “They … try to throw the ball deep. They have some good receivers. Overall, they’re an explosive offense and they definitely go for some home run plays.

“So it’s going to be a great challenge for us to step up and try to shut down a pretty high-powered offense, much like we’ve had to do with … South Carolina and Ole Miss.”

And not at all like they’ve had to do with Umass and Austin Peay.