Vanderbilt can still win the SEC East - and that journey starts Saturday.
The Commodores can take their first ever divisional crown by winning their final four games and getting a little help from the rest of the SEC. A 5-3 Vandy team could force a three-way tie with Georgia and #10 Florida should the Bulldogs win out and the Gators lose once more after Saturday. They could win the East outright by winning out and hoping for extra losses from Florida and Georgia.
That's a fairly unlikely scenario for Derek Mason's team, and most fans would just be happy with a fourth win to seal a recorded improvement from 2014. They can make a huge statement by getting one on Saturday against the Gators. Florida is 7-1 in 2015 and has only lost to #2 LSU this fall. Beating the Commodores will clinch their 11th outright SEC East title since the league split into divisions in 1992.
Can the 'Dores start an improbable run to the postseason on Saturday? Or will the Gators claim another division crown? Let's turn to the experts*.
Christian D'Andrea: Florida doesn't have the kind of high octane offense that can give Vanderbilt fits, so unless the Commodores give up the ball on a regular basis this game shouldn't get out of hand. Unfortunately, this 2015 offense has made creating their own turnovers a black and gold hallmark. Vanderbilt has either fumbled away the ball or thrown an interception 21 times in eight games this season. Their opponents have coughed up the ball at less than half that rate (10 times).
That's unsustainable for a team looking to improve on a disastrous 2014 campaign. The Commodores need to play whichever quarterback can protect the ball the best, and that's Kyle Shurmur (two turnovers in two games). Unfortunately, he got flattened by a Houston defender and spent most of the final quarter of that game looking like he'd just come back from a 1917 tour of Ypres, so his status for Saturday's game is still up in the air.
That leaves Johnny McCrary, and unless his coaching staff can find a way to get him to run a two-minute drill through all 60 minutes of regulation, he's probably not yet equipped to lead this team past a ferocious and opportunistic Gator defense. Florida won't be able to do anything on offense that Houston couldn't, and the Vanderbilt defense held them to 13 points on the drives that weren't set up by horrible interceptions. Even if the Commodores can match that mark they'll still need to score 14 points to win. They've done that only twice against FBS opponents this season.
Vanderbilt is still growing, but last week's result showed an unfortunate regression to that unwatchable 2014 team. The Commodores are capable of surprising teams, but I don't think they have the experience and leadership to hold their center together long enough to upset a top 15 team.
The Pick: #11 Florida 24, Vanderbilt 10
The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: #2 LSU over #4 ALABAMA (-6.5). I'll let VTPHD's indignation cover this one.
VandyTigerPhD:...there's no such thing as curses, right? Because I feel like every time I write one of these we play terribly. I feel like we're not going to get flattened, but I don't like our chances. CDA has covered a lot of why. Without the Houston game, I'd be fairly optimistic. I'm not.
Still, I see us staying within 10 points most of the game and maybe a garbage time TD for Florida to make the idiots who do polls just smugly say "heh, know your place Vandy".
The Pick: #11 Florida 27, Vanderbilt 10
The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: ...wait, LSU is the underdog against Alabama? By 6.5? BAHAHAHAHA *gasp* BAHHAHAHAHAHAHAAH. I don't care if the game is at Bryant-Denny, geaux take a walk, oddsmakers. #2 LSU over #4 ALABAMA (-6.5).
Andrew VU '04: Two years ago, I (absent any irony or the mushroom cloud of optimism and rose colored glasses this suggests) told my friends who had gone to UF that this was the beginning of a run of Vanderbilt's dominance over Gator Nation on the gridiron. And here's the thing... back then, this was not a myopic statement. Our football team was on the upswing, we had a
hot young coach who had this program on the rise bald, poaching snake-oil salesman who left the cupboard bare, and they had Muschamp and sadness. Of course, the Jorts-Wearers fired Muschamp, and hired a perfectly cromulent Saban disciple who took one look at the talent at his disposal and simply rearranged the massive, fast pieces on his chess board and decided it would be easier to play checkers. Well, I suppose we have to king them for that.
This will be brutal. Do anything else with your Saturday if at all possible. However, if you're like us, and watch Vandy football games via the Ludovico Method (voluntarily, I might add), make sure your cabinets are brimming with bourbon. We'll have an offensive line of pretty much nothing but freshmen who didn't start this season on the 2-deep depth chart against what is likely the best front seven in college football. Oh joy. This won't be great for your livers. Keep your dogs/friends/loved ones out of kicking distance and try not to throw a brick through your TV.
As for us, we will be watching thusly:
Basketball season starts next week. Lord Sweet Pappy Johnson with an erection, it can't get here soon enough.
The Pick: #11 Florida 41, Vanderbilt 3.
The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: I don't see one this week. I'd say Arkie covers, but that's not what this is about, right? How about I play with the double meaning of "upset" and simply claim VandyTigerPhD is going to be pretty upset at Brandon Harris when he throws the pick six that seals this loss for LSU. I'll take NUMBER OF TELEVISIONS SMASHED IN ANGER (push) over VandyTigerPhD's Hopes and Dreams. Drink up.