And some of the time, they tend to overlook some teams completely, especially if they aren't considered that great of a team in the first place.
Sometimes, you can do that. If you're USC, you could probably play sloppy against a weak Division One (or Bowl Championship Subdivision, or whatever they're calling it these days) and get by with it. If you're LSU, you could likely come out flat and still be able to win convincingly against a smaller team.
But for teams like Vanderbilt, a team that is in the process of learning to win consistently, you can't overlook teams. That's all there is to it. You can't play around with teams, and then try and put them away in the final minutes of the game. Period.
That brings us to this week's home matchup against that pesky team from Ypsilanti, the Eastern Michigan Eagles. Yes, out of 120 teams, you could probably rank them around 110 or so. Yes, although they're 2-2, their two wins have come against Northern Illinois (which isn't the same Northern Illinois team we've seen in recent years) and Howard (who is.....well....Howard). But again, none of this matters. They still field a college football team, and if you overlook them, on any given day, you could get beat.
Eastern Michigan does have some firepower in their lineup. DeAnthony White, who is a wide receiver, has recorded two plays of 60+ yards for touchdowns in two games this season, which proves he can make plays. Their quarterback, Andy Schmitt is starting to play better, as he has been building confidence throughout the season. Although they clearly don't have the playmakers at that caliber of the Vanderbilt playmakers, they can still find a way to score points. For the Commodores, they can't afford for this game to stay close throughout, as it does nothing but build confidence for the other team, and let them believe they have a shot of winning.
Look no further than the upsets that have occurred this season. It all started with Michigan dropping a game in the Big House against Appalachian State, a team that many thought didn't belong on the same field as the Wolverines. That game pretty much signified the fact that you have to come ready to play every game, no matter who the opponent is. There have been many more upsets that have occurred this season, although not as big as the Appalachian State one. A team that was in desperation mode, Syracuse, came out and beat Louisville on their home field. Mississippi State went into Auburn and won, although that may not be as big an upset as we think. The fact of the matter is, upsets happen. They are part of the reason why we watch the game. To see the underdog win every now and then.
For Vanderbilt, they need to come out and take it to Eastern Michigan early, and let them know they don't have a chance to win this ballgame. In Michigan's case, they let Appalachian State hang around long enough, and it burnt them in the end. The Commodores need to score early and often, and put the game away, and more importantly, take all the air out of Eastern Michigan's hopes to win in Nashville. It's easy to look ahead to next week's game at Auburn, which will be a big SEC game for both teams, but Vandy must not worry about the Tigers until next week. This week, the focus is Eastern Michigan.
If the Commodores can stay focused on the task at hand, they should be able to easily win this game on Saturday. The offense is starting to really pick it up, and look like they are out to prove they can hang with anybody in the SEC. The defense is playing extremely well, and also has a little swagger as well. Some people say you can't tell a lot about a team when their playing inferior talent. Well, personally, I'm not sure about that. If Vanderbilt comes out and convincingly beats the Eagles of Eastern Michigan, it will send a message. It will show that they can put teams away, and not leave any doubt as to who the better team is. Vanderbilt teams in the past have had a hard time putting teams away convincingly. If they can play to their own level, and not play down to the competition's level, this game shouldn't be close.
Plain and simple, a Commodore win this weekend puts them at 3-1, and sets them up very well for the upcoming schedule. The game at Auburn is looking more and more winnable as the days go by, and it will be interesting to see how they play down there.
But first, there's Eastern Michigan. Auburn can wait until next week.