Things have never gone entirely well for the Commodores in Gainesville. For instance, although under a different coaching staff the Commodores took a trip down south several years ago, and were greeted with a 71-13 loss at the hands of the Gators. Ok, let's all try to forget that one now. I apologize for bringing it up. And we all remember the heartbreak in Gainesville two years ago, when the Commodores lost a 49-42 decision in double overtime. Had things bounced the way of the Commodores in certain situations, they could have walked out of "The Swamp" with a victory. But, it didn't turn out that way. All in all, despite playing well two years ago, Vandy just has never played good enough to get a victory in the Gators' home stadium.
However, given Vandy's recent track record on the road it's hard to completely go against the Commodores here. Sure, no one probably gives them a chance given the circumstances. Florida is coming off a loss, the game is in Gainesville, and many feel Florida just isn't going to lose to Vanderbilt. That's great and all but underestimating the Commodores is probably something you shouldn't do at this point. Why? Well let's take a look back. How many people gave Vanderbilt a chance heading into Columbia? It's safe to say the answer to that question is not many. Under Coach Bobby Johnson it's clear that most of the time the Commodores are ready to play when they hit the road in this tough conference. So you can't even begin to count the Commodores out of this game. Not just yet.
Vandy is sitting in a good position at this point in this season. They already have five wins, and are only one win away from bowl eligibility. Again, let's remember that it's only bowl eligibility. In this year's wild SEC, getting only six wins may not be enough to get to a bowl. It would be terrible for us Vandy fans if the Commodores get to six wins, and don't reach a bowl game. This is exactly why Vandy must strive to get seven or more wins. Yes, an outsider may think it's crazy to think that Vanderbilt could get seven wins in a football season. But we fans know better. We know this is a different team, and a team filled with tons of talent at many positions. It's definitely not out of the realm of possibility to think that the Commodores could win two more games this season.
On paper, this looks to be the toughest game of the four left. Going to Gainesville has proved to be much tougher than going to Knoxville in recent years. And although Kentucky and Wake Forest are programs on the rise, both of those are games are in Nashville. However, even though it's probably the toughest game on the remaining schedule, Vandy still goes in with high expectations. This is the kind of team that expects to win no matter where they are playing. That's the difference in past years. Some teams would be intimidated heading into a place like Gainesville, but I honestly believe this team heads into this weekend's game expecting to win. And that's a refreshing feeling for a Commodore fan; given the past games we have seen.
Simply put, the Commodores have nothing to lose heading into this weekend's battle in at "The Swamp." If they lose, not many people expected them to win anyways. If they win, they would catapult themselves in the SEC standings, and would likely find themselves in the Top 25 in college football. Also, a win in Gainesville would go a long way in getting rid of that "They're Vanderbilt, they can't win in football" thought process that many outsiders to the program have. At this point, a loss for Florida would have a much larger effect than a loss for Vanderbilt. Sure, you want to win all of them but a loss in this situation wouldn't hurt the Commodores as much. A team with nothing to lose can be a very dangerous team. Just ask South Carolina.
I don't really know what the outcome will be this weekend, but I do know that a win would have a monumental effect on this program. It would be exactly what this program needs to take that next step. Vanderbilt is in a tough spot considering where they are playing but they are a team with nothing to lose and a lot to gain.
All I ask is that we don't celebrate after we score. Because we all know what happens when you do that in Gainesville.