Now that basketball season is upon us, it's easy to forget about our floundering football team. But let's not forget what this Saturday is. And let's keep in mind that the 'Dores have a very legit shot of finishing 2010 with a two-game winning streak against a pair of BCS-conference schools.
This week, Vanderbilt prepares for its biggest game of the season as the arch-rival Tennessee Volunteers make the trip down I-40 to visit Nashville. Like most seasons, the UT game is the pinnacle of the Commodore season; not just for team pride and gratification, but also for the to potential spoil Tennessee's season. The Vols, sitting at 4-6, can't afford another loss if they want to make it to a bowl in 2010. The 'Dores, at 2-8, can hope for nothing more than to force another SEC team to join them in their misery come December.
Tennessee is hitting Dudley Field on an upswing, scoring 102 points in their last two games and picking up their first SEC win of the season over Ole Miss. Vanderbilt is trending in the opposite direction, giving up 142 points in their last three losses. Worse yet, Vandy hasn't even looked that good at home. The team has lost by an average of over 26 points per game in their SEC games in Nashville.
As I discussed Wednesday with our friends over at Rocky Top Talk, there have been some positive trends - mostly on the defense. A young defensive line and secondary has been learning some of the harshest lessons about SEC football that opposing offenses have to give, but are still showing signs of improvement as the season wears on. Against UT, they'll be up against a young quarterback who plays fast and loose and likes to take his chances downfield. With a D-line that gets good penetration and a secondary with a few ballhawks, this could play right to Vanderbilt's advantages. If the offense can hold onto the ball and keep the D fresh, the Commodores stand a very real chance of pulling the upset Saturday.
What else do we have in store for you in our comically late, woefully underprepared predictions post? Click the link below to keep reading...
Train Island - Holy crap, I am late in getting this all together. I blame my traveling and the abundance of early hoops games for Thursday/Friday. Now that basketball season is upon us, football is starting to take a back seat a bit prematurely. There is a very real possibility that the Commodores win out in their final two games, even with the string of terrible injuries that have cursed this team. First, they get a rivalry game at home against one of the worst teams UT has fielded in a while (though, to be fair, this team hasn't lost to Wyoming, so...); after that, they get the one BCS team that Rivals has ranked lower than Vanderbilt - Wake Forest.
Even if the team can only pull out one win in the next eight days, it would still give Vandy three wins - two more than more prognosticators picked the team to have. That would reflect well on Robbie Caldwell's chances to hold onto his head coaching position through 2012. However, it's not the amount of losses but rather the way the team has been losing that threatens Caldwell's position. Simply put, this team isn't having fun on the field, and the resulting blowouts aren't fun for the fans. Losses in the Bobby Johnson era were often excruciating, but there was no way you were leaving the stadium early most weeks. In 2010, the fans have already been subjected to four blowouts. A fifth will be especially hard to justify.
Can the Commies come back and fight hard knowing that a win Saturday goes a long way towards ensuring Caldwell's presence in 2011? More importantly, can the players step up into the roles that the staff's ambitious playcalling wants them to take? This year's offensive motto seems to be fitting square pegs into round holes, and the results have been about as successful as you might think. What talent exists on the team has been badly underutilized, and even John Cole is getting sick of seeing incomplete pass attempts to John Cole.
Vandy will have to come out fired up tomorrow afternoon, and the coaching staff will have to meet them halfway. Offensive Coordinator Des Kitchings looked like he had a good thing going in his first game against Arkansas, engineering two scoring drives on the first pair of possessions in his regime. After that, the wheels fell off behind the guise of deception and niche play calling. Can this team use a simple and efficient offense to hold off Tennessee? Or will the team's personnel losses at tailback and the lure of a no-huddle offense keep the 'Dores with their backs against the wall all game?
Vanderbilt can't win unless some changes are made. In the face of the biggest game of the season, I'm sure the players will do whatever it takes to get a win. Can the coaching staff point them in the right direction? I'm not entirely confident. Unless the defense wins the turnover battle, Tennessee takes this one - again.
Prediction?: Tennessee 26, Vanderbilt 20