The Commodores couldn't have picked a better time for their bye week. Vanderbilt is coming off a 48-3 shellacking that dropped the team to 1-3 on the season, and James Franklin needs to regroup if he's going to turn things around in 2012.
The 'Dores will have to retool a sputtering offense that has failed to sustain drives against BCS-level defenses. That means that we'll have another two weeks to drag out the quarterback battle between Jordan Rodgers and Austyn Carta-Samuels. Behind them, coordinator/coaches Herb Hand and John Donovan will be hard at work devising a game plan that will keep one of them mostly upright against Missouri despite an ineffective offensive line. The first four weeks of the season suggested that there is plenty of work to be done. This week's blank spot on the schedule will give Vanderbilt some time to do it.
Unfortunately, that means that Commodore fans will be greeted by the stark silence of inactivity this Saturday.
There are other Vandy sports in action this weekend. If you're in Nashville, you can watch the women's lacrosse team take on a Fall Ball doubleheader against Cincinnati and Louisville. There, they'll have a chance to erase some embarrassing Commodore football and basketball losses from the past year. The #8 ranked women's cross country team will be in Louisville for a brisk 5K early in the morning. The men's tennis team will be kicking off the ITA All-American championships in lovely Tulsa, Oklahoma as well.
What's more likely, though, is that you'll push through this dreaded down period with more SEC football. The conference hits week five of the NCAA season with a relatively solid slate of games. Missouri will travel to Orlando to take on 2-1 Central Florida in a game that will serve as a tune up for next week's Commodores-Tigers battle. Arkansas and Texas A&M will battle for their first conference wins of the season in a matchup between two underwhelming programs. And, in the weekend's best conference matchup, Tennessee will get another shot to prove that Derek Dooley deserves to stay in Knoxville when they travel to Athens to play the #5 Bulldogs.
So, what games are we most looking forward to? And where can we expect an upset?
Christian D'Andrea: Without a Commodore game on tap, I'm more looking forward to a cavalcade of awesome matchups between mediocre-to-terrible teams. A scandal-ravaged Penn State against normal-bad Illinois? Sold. Louisiana Tech in a toss up against Virginia? Let's do it. Western Kentucky and Arkansas State? FIRE UP ESPN3!
The game I'm most looking forward to watching, or at least paying moderate attention to while grilling on a sunny fall day, is Duke at Wake Forest. Both teams are 3-1 with a blowout loss to a top 25 team this season. The winner of this game should have an inside track on what once seemed like a pretty unlikely bowl bid. While Wake posted the best win of the season between the two by defeating North Carolina, they also barely snuck by I-AA Liberty (20-17) and got absolutely pasted by Florida State (0-52). I like the Blue Devils in a slop-ball barnburner on Saturday. Duke quarterback Sean Renfree is surprisingly un-awful, and I expect his senior leadership to shine and bring his team two wins from postseason eligibility.
SEC Upset Pick of the Week: Missouri (+3) over Central Florida. Mizzou has the best win of these two teams, a 24-20 victory over Arizona State at home. While the Tigers have had a rough go of things in the SEC by losing both their conference games by 21 points, they're better than they've played against Georgia and South Carolina. Missouri should have the juice to rumble into Orlando and come out with a significant win.
KingJamesIV: The week 5 game I’m most looking forward to watching? Tennessee @ Georgia. Georgia played a flawless game against the Commodores last Saturday, and I’m going to feel a lot better about the whole thing if the Bulldogs come out in the same fashion against the Volunteers.
I happened to tune in to local sports radio yesterday in the car, and Braden Gall of Athlon Sports was on air discussing his predictions for the game. Suffice it to say, on paper Georgia looks heavily favored in every phase of the game. Tennessee’s defense suffered some key losses earlier in the season that Georgia will undoubtedly exploit, while Tennessee’s run game hasn’t developed to the point where it will be able to relieve the pressure Tyler Bray will be under from Jarvis Jones et altera. While it probably won’t be as ugly as Vanderbilt’s game (starting field position had a large impact on the disparity), Gall’s opinion is that it might not be as close of a game as Vol fans are thinking.
I’m also looking to catch a glimpse of Missouri against Central Florida in order to scope out the 'Dores next opponent against a team other than Georgia.
SEC Upset Pick of the Week: Arkansas (+14.5) over Texas A&M. Is Arkansas really as bad as they’ve played so far? I’m not sure. At some point I could see them snapping out of the funk, particularly under the direction of Tyler Wilson, who still looks like he gives a damn. I could also see them folding like a cheap tent. Considering the slate of games on tap for the weekend, I’ll call this my shoulder-shrug-lock-of-the-week.