It is only starting to feel like the 2019 football season is a lost cause, but a win tonight against the Ole Miss Rebels... well, it wouldn’t change everything, but it would at least be off script.
So far this season, Vanderbilt has lost to Georgia, Purdue, and LSU, and none of the three losses were particularly close. They managed to beat Northern Illinois last Saturday, but impressed approximately nobody in the process. Vanderbilt currently ranks 85th in Sagarin and 87th in SP+. There is substantial evidence right now that this team is not very good, and yet, tantalizingly, there are three seniors on the offensive side of the ball who will probably be playing in the NFL at this time next year.
The latter both explains why fans are so frustrated, and also why there’s a sliver of hope for the rest of the season. 2019 wasn’t supposed to go this way. Oh, sure, losses to Georgia and LSU were expected, and some expected a loss to Purdue — but then, we weren’t exactly counting on Purdue otherwise looking very bad. (Purdue is 1-3 on the season, with Vanderbilt being their only win.)
Last time out, Vanderbilt looked to be on its way to an easy win as it built a 14-0 lead on its first two drives of the game, only for the offense to stall out from there and sleepwalk its way to a 24-18 win. And if the size of the crowd was any indication, a lot of people have already checked out on the season, and the Derek Mason era. Perhaps a win in Oxford will flip that, I don’t know. The point is, though, this feels like the last chance for Vanderbilt to salvage the season. I thought going into the season that Vanderbilt would need a win at either Purdue or Ole Miss to make a bowl game, and a loss tonight would mean they got neither one. And it would mean that Vanderbilt would need to go 5-2 the rest of the way to salvage it. That’s a tough call when two of the games are road trips to Florida and South Carolina.
There’s Other Football
While you’re waiting all day for Vanderbilt and Ole Miss to kick off, there’s other football to check out.
Actually, the SEC slate this week is fairly boring. The 11 AM time slot features LSU hosting Utah State, which is mostly notable for LSU playing a home game at 11 AM. The CBS game is Auburn at Florida — which, okay, that should be a good one. Opposite that on the SEC Network is Troy at Missouri, which probably will not be good. And at 6 PM, Georgia goes to Tennessee, which can only end well.
Things do look fairly interesting outside the SEC. In the early games, I’ll probably be watching Oklahoma State-Texas Tech (11 AM, FS1), but if that’s not your thing, try Iowa-Michigan (11 AM, FOX.) Or TCU-Iowa State (11 AM, ESPN2.) In the afternoon, outside of Auburn-Florida... oh, screw it, you’re gonna want to watch the MLB Playoffs if that one gets out of control. And, of course, we’re all going to be watching Vanderbilt-Ole Miss instead of watching Rice-UAB on ESPN+.
You know what, actually, this college football Saturday kind of sucks. Have fun anyway, and expect to win.