September 26, 2009
The raw data: The Owls return 49 lettermen from a year ago. The offense returns just 4 starters while the defense gets back 9. Rice, which finished the 2008 season 10-3, won the Texas Bowl last year over Western Michigan, 38-14.
Why we should be worried: It's Rice and it's on the road this time. Although the Owls lost a ton of starters off that stellar offense the question lingers in every Vandy fan's mind, was it the system or the players? The fact is head coach David Bailiff didn't get lured away after leading the Owls to one of their best seasons in years. On offense senior wide receiver Toren Dixon returns. He has 101 career receptions. Left tackle Scott Mitchell is also back. He has 18 consecutive career starts for the Owls. On defense the Owls return defensive end Scott Solomon who has 9 career sacks and earned honorable mention all-conference honors last season. Kicker Clark Fangmeier has been named to the Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Award watch list. He made 8 of 11 field goal attempts last year.
Why we should be optimistic: Vanderbilt won 38-21 last year. In that game the Owls looked like they were going to run away with the game but the Vandy defensive staff made some adjustments and got things under control. You can bet the VU staff took notes of what those adjustments were. Although the Owls were able to keep their head coach, they must replace their offensive coordinator, receivers coach and offensive line coach. This, coupled with the heavy attrition of offensive players, could spell trouble for the Owls.
What might happen: Vanderbilt will come out and establish the ground game early and build a lead. Look for the VU defense to overwhelm the Owl offense. The Commodores will have a comfortable lead at halftime but it won't be as easy as the Western Carolina. The Vandy defense will score in this game.
Predicted Score: Vanderbilt 41 Rice 21
Octover 3, 2009
The raw data: Ole Miss returns 51 lettermen including 8 offensive starters and 8 defensive starters. Ole Miss has won 12 of the last 16 games but Vandy has taken two straight. The Rebels finished 9-4 last year with losses to Wake Forest, Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Alabama. Many services have picked Ole Miss to be a top 10 team nationally this year. Houston Nutt is 1-2 against Vanderbilt.
Why we should be worried: Ole Miss is loaded with talent this season. They have quarterback Jevon Snead back who Steve Spurrier picked as his All-SEC selection at SEC Media Days but then changed his pick to Tim Tebow after the media went on a witch hunt to find out the "culprit". Last season Snead passed for 2,762 yards, 26 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Running back Cordera Eason, who ran for 647 yards and 3 scores, is back for 2009. Wide receiver Dexter McCluster, who doubles as a running back and led the Rebs in rushing with 655 yards and 6 touchdowns, also returns. McCluster and fellow receiver Shay Hodge each caught 44 passes for Ole Miss last season. On Defense the Rebels are loaded on the defensive line. They have defensive ends Marcus Tillman and Kentrell Lockett back along with Greg Hardy who missed much of '08 with an injury. Free safety Kendrick Lewis led Ole Miss in tackles with 85 and also returns.
Why we should be optimistic: Snead might have had a great year last year but he stunk it up against Vanderbilt tossing 4 interceptions on that hot night in Oxford. If Ole Miss can't beat Vanderbilt in Oxford why should we think they can win in Nashville? Both teams have essentially the same players back.
What might happen: Last year's game in Oxford was wild with multiple turnovers and a special teams kickoff return for Ole Miss along with the memorable interception return by Vanderbilt's Ryan Hamilton. You can expect a similar type game this year. Should go back and forth with the team that makes the fewest mistakes pulling it out. My guess is that Vandy score late to take the lead and pick up the win.
Predicted Score: Vanderbilt 27 Ole Miss 23
October 10, 2009
The raw data: Vanderbilt is 4-3 all-time against Army. The Black Knights return 33 lettermen including 5 offensive starters and 7 defensive starters. Army finished the 2008 season 3-9 with the three wins came over Tulane, Eastern Michigan and Louisiana Tech.
Why we should be worried: Vandy will be playing on hollowed ground at West Point. The Black Knights have a habit of stunning favored teams there. Remember the multiple overtime game against Louisville back in the late 90s? Nobody gave the Cadets a prayer and they pulled out the win. Army also has a new, dynamic coaching staff. Head coach Rich Ellerson came to Army from Cal Poly where last year he came within a couple of points of beating Wisconsin on the road. Ellerson kept the best assistants from the Army previous staff including the defensive coordinator and brought his best coaches from Cal Poly. Army has a great defense that is led by defensive tackle Victor Ugenyi and linebacker Stephen Anderson. Ellerson, by the way, was the designer of the University of Arizona's highly successful "Desert Swarm" defense.
Why we should be optimistic: Army hasn't won more than 3 games in a season but once (2005) since 1997. The Cadets are picked as one of the bottom 10 worst teams in America by many services. Army offense returns just 5 starters and despite the fact that the Black Knights ran an option offense last season their new option offense is different. It may take the Cadets a while to get a grasp of both their new option offense and their new swarm defense.
What might happen: Vanderbilt's defense should dominate the young Army offense. Look for the Commodores to pick up at least 4 turnovers in this game. Meanwhile the Vandy offense won't be quite as dominant as the 'Dore defense but look for them to score 3 touchdowns and 3 field goals.
Predicted Score: Vanderbilt 30 Army 7