Vanderbilt's Hope In A Bizarre SEC East

The Vanderbilt football team can't be expected to win road games in the SEC East this season. No one should try to pretend that's not the case. Yet, while Vanderbilt hasn't done enough this season to merit an outright advantage against an in-division opponent, the good news for the Dores is that the non-Georgia portion of the SEC East is so frail and weak that victory is attainable.


It was and is and will be one of the most remarkable box scores not just of the 2014 season, but of the decade and – yes – of the 21st century.

Last Saturday, the Missouri Tigers gained only seven first downs. They gained only 119 yards. They passed for only 20. They coughed up 74 penalty yards. They committed a turnover. They held the ball for only 26 minutes. They averaged 1.1 yards per pass attempt and 3.3 yards per completion. They completed only six passes. The offense scored only one touchdown, on a 19-yard drive.

Missouri – that same team with the 20 passing yards, the six completed passes, the 74 penalty yards surrendered, and only one offensive touchdown on a 19-yard drive – won in the Swamp at night… by 29 points… after leading by 42.

Yes, a team that passed for only 20 yards and rushed for under 100 led by a 42-0 score with 5:57 left in the third quarter. You could live another 30 years and not see a sequence of events or a combination of statistics such as that one. Missouri’s offense was pure rubbish. Maty Mauk, who seemed poised to have such a big season after being so impressive last year in relief of James Franklin (the quarterback, not that other guy coaching in Pennsylvania right now…), was lousy. Missouri’s offense was dormant, one week after being just as dormant against another SEC East team, the Georgia Bulldogs. When one realizes how impotent Kentucky was this past Saturday against LSU; how powerless Tennessee was against Ole Miss; and how hollowed-out South Carolina continues to be, it becomes obvious that the SEC East, minus Georgia, is so bad that teams two through seven are not that far apart. Vanderbilt would have to be seen as team number seven – that’s the bad news. The good news is that number two – whichever school that might be – isn’t very far ahead.

If SEC East number two is in fact Missouri – we won’t know for a few more weeks – Vanderbilt could certainly ambush the Tigers. If Missouri’s offense can’t solve deeply persistent and acutely troublesome issues, Vanderbilt will be right there in the fourth quarter… provided it can make timely plays and avoid big mistakes.

You probably already know this, but let’s be up front in saying it: Missouri scored 42 points against Florida because it ran back two kicks for touchdowns, plucked a pick-six, and carried off the ol’ scoop-and-score on a 21-yard fumble return for a touchdown. Vanderbilt will need to actually make some dynamic plays at some point on Saturday, but if the Commodores can spend these 60 minutes avoiding a single bad giveaway of any kind on offense or special teams, that in and of itself will give VU a chance.

Given the way this season has gone, a chance is all Vanderbilt can realistically want on the road in the SEC East at this point.

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