Also, Coach Stallings has done a good job of allowing the team to "warm up" before critical matchups. At the beginning of the season, the ‘Dores have scheduled four tune-ups of increasing difficulty – Northern State, Jacksonville State, Furman, and UNC-Greensboro. These four games will give the coaching staff a fair chance to have the team playing at its peak level by the time they play Georgetown, Oregon, and Cincinnati. At the beginning of the SEC schedule, Vanderbilt will play a home game against Auburn to help prepare the squad for its toughest game of the year – at Kentucky. So what are the key stretches of the schedule? What games, besides the post-season, will most determine the team's level success?
(1) 11/26-12/10 -- @Georgetown, Oregon, Cincinnati – as has already been mentioned, these are three of Vanderbilt's five critical out-of-conference games, and the team will play them consecutively. Coach Stallings has wisely scheduled an open Saturday on 12/3, giving the team a chance to regroup for Cincinnati. Winning two of these three games should be considered a success.
(2) 2/8-2/15 -- @Alabama, Kentucky, Florida – within seven days, the Commodores will play three of their toughest competitors in the SEC. While the entire SEC schedule is tough, this stretch comes right in the middle of conference play, and could set the tone for the Commodores' last five regular season games. Again, winning at least two of these games would be a big boost.
So lets say you are a fan of the Commodores, and you do not often get the chance to come to a game. What are the key home games that a fan should make an extra effort to attend? (1) February 11 – Kentucky. This is the biggest home-game threat to the Commodores, who have dominated at Memorial in recent years. The Dores are 2-2 over the last four years against Kentucky at home, so this will surely be a hard-fought matchup. Also, Vanderbilt and Kentucky could be close together at the top of the standings by this time, and this game could be important in determining the regular-season SEC East champion.
(2) March 4 – Tennessee. UT will probably not be one of the teams at the top of the SEC this year, so why is it so important to come to this game? Besides the proximity of the opponent and the rivalry that exists between the two schools, this is senior night for Mario and Julian, two hometown heroes. Just as importantly, the game is scheduled for the beginning of Vandy's spring break, which will probably cause low student attendance. The Nashville community and the true fans among the students will need to step it up and fill the stands.
(3) December 10 – Cincinnati. This is the second game of a home-and-home series for the 'Dores, and it's time to avenge last year's loss. This game could be a way for the team to make a statement to themselves and everyone else about how much the team has improved since last year. If the Commodores are as good as their supporters think, they will have to show exceptional improvement over last year's poor performance at Cincinnati. Memorial Magic will be needed to make a statement at this, the toughest home game of 2005.
Season tickets will be available for as little as $75 each, and this year will be special for Vanderbilt. If you have been putting off the decision to buy season tickets in Memorial, then I have news for you – this is the year. See you in November!