It's now late September, and you could swing a dead cat in a circle up here without hitting anyone. Alas, the Dores will exit the month of September 0-and-3, and all those high preseason bowl hopes have been all but washed away.
No question, the first three games of this season have amounted to a colossal disappointment for us Commodore diehards. The opener against South Carolina saw Vanderbilt dominated from the opening gun, not to mention done in by silly turnovers. The second game saw the Dores manage to blow a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter (thanks to some questionable calls by those wacky, lovable SEC officials).
Saturday's game was kind of like watching a painful movie unfold for the umpteenth time. You knew there was a chance Vandy might pull it out, and for a while there it looked as though they might. But a 7-point road dog, you knew it wasn't likely.
I swear, sometimes being a Vanderbilt fan is a lot like playing a giant game of Whack-a-Mole... get one thing covered, and another pops up to bite you. Solve the kicking game, and turnovers or penalties kill you. About the time you figure out how to stop Navy's vaunted triple-option running attack... its unheralded quarterback burns you with a career high in passing. Sheesh.
However, I come today not to bury Vandy, but to announce that better times are ahead. I come to let you know that despite the prevailing sentiment of pessimism, Vanderbilt's football fortunes are on the verge of an upturn. Somebody probably should slap me for saying this, but...
Vanderbilt should head to Baton Rouge on Oct. 30 with a record of 3-4.
There, I said it. No, I have not been dabbling in any illegal substances. Yes, I know that fans are down on this team, its coaches and the entire program right now.
Yes, I know that down through the years, every time I've come out and predicted the Dores would win the next game, it's been the kiss of death.
Nonetheless, for the Commodore "ship" which has been "taking on water" and "listing to port" (to borrow a few phrases from the Tennessean)... I see a navigable stretch of seas ahead.
What in the world makes me dare dream such an unthinkable thing, much less put it into print? Two things... (1) This Vandy team I've been watching the last three games is not that bad a team; and (2) some truly bad football teams are dead ahead.
True, the Commodores are sporting an ugly 0-3 record. The preseason hype led many of us to believe they might start out the season with a bang; obviously, they did not. But let's not forget the last two losses have come by razor-thin margins, on the road, to teams that were in bowls last year.
After 38 years of watching Vandy football, I know a bad football team when I see one-- and Vanderbilt is not a bad football team.
Mississippi State, on the other hand... now there's a bad football team. Yes, I know the Bulldogs christened the Croom era with a victory over Tulane. But get a load of this... since Mississippi State beat Vandy 30-21 a year ago, the Bullies have been outscored 361-71 in eight SEC games, all losses.
By contrast, Vandy is 1-6 in SEC play since then, having only been outscored only 219-106 over the same period. On top of that, Mississippi State will be without its starting quarterback Omarr Conner, who suffered a knee injury in a 51-0 loss to LSU. I foresee not only a Vandy win Saturday, but a big win.
Rutgers comes to town a week later, a team which upset Michigan State then lost to Division I-AA New Hampshire. This game is likely to be close one, but the Commodores, which have already lost a couple of close games, should win this one. No, I take it back... they will win this one.
Not even I can rationally predict a Vanderbilt win over No. 3 Georgia in Athens on Oct. 16; not even I have that much moxie. Nonetheless, the Bulldogs will be coming off conference wars vs. LSU and Tennessee in successive weeks, and Vanderbilt may not get the Dawgies' best effort.
Eastern Kentucky is Vanderbilt's foe on Oct. 23. Say what you will about Vanderbilt under Bobby Johnson, but the Commodores have taken care of business when it comes to Division I-AA foes (Furman in 2002, Chattanooga in 2003). There's simply no reason to think Vandy can't down the Colonels from the OVC.
Mark it down. When the Dores board the buses for Baton Rouge at the end of October, they should be sitting at a much more respectable 3-4.
How sure am I that this will happen?
If it doesn't, my pre-game meal on Oct. 30 in Baton Rouge will consist of nothing but live crawdads.
Contact Brent at brent(at)vandymania.com
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