Vanderbilt first-year head coach Bobby Johnson, who has drawn national attention for his no-swearing policy, came to Vanderbilt preaching, "We will do things the right way... the Vanderbilt way." Meanwhile Georgia's Mark Richt, in his second year with the Bulldogs, had this quote in the Atlanta papers this week: "If we were to win a championship and not do it ethically, it would ultimately not be satisfying."
The mild-mannered Richt, who is suddenly one of the hottest young coaches in college football, is so calm and collected on the sidelines that sometimes you wonder if he still has a pulse.
With so much corruption going on in college football, presidents and athletic directors are suddenly becoming more image-conscious than ever. Richt, a born-again evangelical Christian, and Johnson, a devout Catholic, are both family men with impeccable reputations, and represent a throwback to old-fashioned family values and ethics.
With Jackie Sherrill and Tommy Tuberville-- two coaches of less than savory repute-- suddenly on the proverbial hot-seat, is the Richt/Johnson model the wave of the future? One can only hope.
All week the buzz in Athens has been whether injured Georgia running back Musa Smith would return in time to play against Vanderbilt. Fine, but if you ask me, the X-factor in this game is backup quarterback D. J. Shockley... who is also expected to make a return from an injury.
Shockley, a redshirt freshman, is one of those mobile backup quarterbacks that everyone seems to have these days. (Georgia Tech had Damarius Bilbo backing up A. J. Suggs; Auburn had Jason Campbell backing up Daniel Cobb; South Carolina had Dondrial Pinkins backing up Corey Jenkins.)
The versatile Shockley played well in the Bulldogs' first two games against Clemson and South Carolina. But an injury to Shockley in the South Carolina game kept a full-blown quarterback controversy from blossoming between Shockley and David Greene, who has started all six games for the Dawgs.
Greene, a sophomore who has led Georgia to landmark wins over Alabama and Tennessee, is the most familiar with the offense and the more adept at checking into the right play. He is less mobile than Shockley, however, sometimes he has a tendency to lock onto a single receiver.
Shockley, on the other hand, has a great arm and a great set of wheels. He lacks experience, however, and may be a bit rusty after missing four games.
Shockley, by the way, was a star at North Clayton High School in Georgia. His favorite receiver there was none other than Vanderbilt redshirt freshman Keith Williams.
With Jay Cutler back after a one-game suspension, Vanderbilt may try to run a little option against Georgia. Keep in mind, however, that Georgia has already played against two teams which run a good bit of option-- New Mexico State and Alabama.
OK, I have to get this off my chest... Vanderbilt should NEVER, EVER play Middle Tennessee State again.
Yes, I'm still smarting from losing to the Blue Raiders a second year in a row... but no, this is not sour grapes. I said it before the two teams met in 2001, and I still believe it. It was a big mistake ever to let MTSU set foot on Dudley Field.
The series came about only because of former MTSU athletics director Boots Donnelly, who no doubt schmoozed Woody Widenhofer and Todd Turner over a couple of rounds of golf into signing a contract for a two-game series. It might have made a little sense at the time-- Vandy needed a pay-for-play opponent, and back then MTSU was merely a Division I-AA school with ambitious plans to move up a level. In a weak moment, the deal was sealed.
Little did the Vanderbilt braintrust realize that Middle Tennessee's program would ascend so quickly under Andy McCollum. Woody Widenhofer added fuel to the fire when he told the Tennessean, "It won't matter to our fans that we win, only how much we beat them by." (Which of course the Blue Raiders managed to misconstrue to their own purposes.)
As a member in good standing with the SEC, Vanderbilt has nothing... nothing... to gain by playing an in-state rival; and, as the recent two-game series proved, it has much to lose. When you lose to Miami of Ohio, yes, it's bad... but their fans go home and leave you alone. And in general you're not recruiting any of the same players that Miami is.
The Tennessean's Joe Biddle thinks the Vandy-MTSU series should continue... well, well, well. You know Joe's only got Vanderbilt's best interest at heart.
Doubtless MTSU will approach Vanderbilt again soon with a contract for three or four more games... only this time, they'll demand that Vandy play at least one game in Murfreesboro (!). Please, please, Todd, just say no.