That Eerie Feeling Is Back

Football season is here. For some fans, it's a time to watch their powerhouse program manhandle the rest of the competition in route to a high win total. For other fans, it's a time to sit back and keep repeating that phrase "we'll be better next year!"

And then there are those fans who have to strap in their seat belts and hang on for the curvy ride. A ride filled with ups and downs, and a ride that ultimately leads to a game that will make or break the season. The game that all your hopes, dreams, and expectations are realized, or taken away from you. For Vanderbilt fans, this is the ride we've taken for many years in the past. It's a journey that we all want to believe will end in triumph, but seems to always veer off course somewhere along the way.

Well ladies and gentleman, that eerie feeling is back in Nashville. A feeling of hope, and for some, a feeling that hasn't been around in a while. That's right, it's a feeling of success. Perhaps a better way of putting it, it's a feeling of balance. There have been times where one side of the ball has been drastically better than the other. But this year? We can potentially be strong on both sides of the ball. And you know what, this has those outside the program a little bit curious as to what's going on over on West End.

Questions are everywhere. Will Vanderbilt finally go to a bowl? Can Chris Nickson lead this team to the postseason? How long will it take Earl Bennett to set the SEC record for receptions? Could Vanderbilt start the season 4-0? Is the offensive line as good as advertised? Is the special teams improved? Could this Vanderbilt team be the most talented team in school history? These aren't small questions anymore folks. The big questions are starting to be asked about the black and gold.

Like it or not, the hype is here. Some Vandy fans don't like the hype, as they seem to think it always leads to a downfall. But for others, such as myself, it's the kind of hype that we welcome. Because remember, when you get hype, that means you've done something right in your program. It means that people are starting to take notice of you. Hype isn't something that's thrown around regularly.

Sure, we can all look back to the 2004-2005 season, when the hype was in full effect like it is now. Jay Cutler was a junior, and everyone just knew that it was going to be the year the Commodores went bowling for the first time since 1982. What happened? South Carolina came in and ended those dreams in the first week of the season. It was a game that would like to be forgotten many of the Vandy faithful, as the Gamecocks left Nashville with a 31-6 victory. After that game, the team was never the same. The Commodores finished 2-9 that season, with most of the fans feeling disappointed.

We can even look at the 2005-2006 season, which didn't offer as much preseason hype, but did offer the hype when the Commodores started 4-0. A blocked field goal by MTSU let all the air out from under us, and another chance to go bowling was taken away. However, it's probably safe to say that the win over Tennessee raised spirits, and was probably a suitable replacement for a bowl game.

Does this eerie feeling feel the same now as it did then? That's for you to decide. But personally, while it does feel the same, it also feels a little bit different. This is a different kind of team, with a different situation. With eight home games, including a four game home stand to start the season, you can't help but feel optimistic. The Commodores return 18 starters from a team that was very competitive last year, including a big win in Athens over Georgia. With sports writers and analysts all over the country claiming "this is the year the Commodores go bowling," it makes a Vandy fan feel good. It makes us feel as though we've earned some respect within the SEC and national community.

That respect has been rightfully earned though. While the Commodores have yet to go bowling in the Bobby Johnson era, one can't help but feel great about the progress that has been made. Vanderbilt is no longer the laughing stock of the league in football. With wins over top-tier teams in the last two seasons (Tennessee and Georgia), the football program is now proving it can compete with anyone, anywhere, at anytime. There are still those people around the league who continue to say "They're still Vanderbilt," and they're right. The name is the same. But as far as the football program goes, we're not the same Vanderbilt.

All the pieces seem to be in place for a memorable season at Vanderbilt. The fans are excited. The coaches are excited. The players are excited. But with the all excitement, comes more questions. The question we seem to ask every single year will without a doubt be asked again this year. Can the Commodores get over the hump?

And you know what, sometimes you've got to push past that eerie feeling. You've got to push past all the memories of letdowns in the past. Sometimes, you've got to man up and go with your gut.

My gut tells me that the Commodores are headed for the postseason.


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