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Vanderbilt 2020 Football Mail Bag #2: Answers to Your Questions

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Letters... we get letters... we get sacks and sacks of letters...

Postman Collects Letters Photo by Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty Images

Question from WestEndMayhem:

Under Mason, the football program has had a few moments of positivity, to the point where fans had hope of turning the corner as pieces all seemingly came together. The end of the 2016 season where we earned our way into a bowl game with numerous upsets, the start of 2017 when a ranked K-State fell, and entering into the 2019 season with “the big 3” were all times I thought “maybe this is it,” and then we fail. Spectacularly.

The morning of the 26th, I spent the day plopped on my couch watching SEC football and was finding myself filled with dread. Mississippi State was solid. Kentucky came out strong, with a mobile QB. Ole Miss was in a shootout with Florida. Even Arkansas, though they would ultimately lose, was spanking Georgia in the first quarter. And with each game, I was only thinking of our match-up: -31.5, true freshman QB. -31.5, true freshman QB. -31.5, true freshman QB. Ugly, bad, disaster.

And yet, when the time came to play, we held our own against the #11* team in the nation. The QB did not panic, the OL was solid enough, and our defense was commendable. And while this is another moment where I find myself thinking “Are we starting to see a corner to turn?”, I again remind myself of the failures we have had in the past. So I ask you, wise sages of Anchor of Gold, what more can this team realistically do this season? Has the ceiling shifted from 0 wins to 1, 1 to 2, or are we suddenly, conceivably looking at 5 under some best case scenario wizardry?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I still think two wins is roughly the ceiling, and honestly that didn’t really change much after Saturday night — because if you were going to imagine a scenario where this team wins a game, it probably looks a lot like the A&M game. Opponent can’t get out of its own way and insists on farting away an obvious win against Vanderbilt? Yeah, that was A&M on Saturday night.

With that said, if you were watching SEC football on Saturday, you can start to see where some of the other teams on the schedule might be beatable. Missouri looked like a wet fart against Alabama (which, Alabama, but still), Tennessee and South Carolina spent most of the game trying to out-dumb one another, Ole Miss apparently does not have a defense, and Georgia managed to match Vanderbilt’s first-half output of five points. And as somebody said on Twitter, if you don’t think Mike Leach can follow up Saturday’s win over LSU with an inexplicable loss at some point, then you are not familiar with Pac-12 After Dark.

Stanimal: My upgrade is to 2, I previously only had one. The three winnable games are Ole Miss, Mizzou, and South Carolina. As the tape grows for Ken Seals he may find the game even harder for him, but I saw enough flashes to think we’ll battle in those three games. I don’t think there’s enough to keep us in the other games on the schedule, so optimistically 3, realistically 2.

Doreontheplains: I don't know as it changed the optimistic outlook because that looked about like the most optimistic projections hoped. The defense mostly limited big plays and generated turnovers. The offensive line was actually maybe a little better than "bad." Ken Seals was effective.

I really could not have expected more unless we avoided the two interceptions and turned those drives into points. There is a chance this team makes some leaps forward, catches a team or two at the right time, and finds 3, 4, or 5 wins. I would expect between 1 and 3 wins as long as neither Seals or the OL suffers injuries.

Andrew VU ‘04: I think we’ve shifted to 1-2 wins, but 0 is still a very real possibility given our schedule. More importantly, from my perspective, we’ve shifted from me dreading Saturdays to me looking forward to Saturdays, as we have a quarterback! And the o-line of four guys pulled randomly from Econ 101 and the autopilot from Airplane! actually held up well! (Please stay healthy, four guys pulled randomly from Econ 101 and the autopilot from Airplane! Please please please.) I still think Mason’s not the man for the job, but Seals might just be. So, to borrow a phrase from a simpler time, “Hope and Change.” #StillFireMason #LooseSeals


Question from Denverdore:

Hypothetically: Vandy wins 1 game this year.

Would you rather that win be against:

a) a perennial leader in the division like Florida, Georgia, LSU, etc.

b) THEM

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: My galaxy brain take is that I want it to be against THEM, where THEY are 8-0 and ranked in the top 5.

But the answer is always THEM.

Stanimal: Always THEM.

Doreontheplains: Always the Viles

Andrew VU ‘04: The Knoxville Chuggers. Knoxville delenda est.


Questions from Parlagi and DoreJam:

You can take this as football-specific, but I really mean across all sports.

Am I the only one who enjoys out-of-conference games more than SEC games, excepting A&M and Missouri? I don’t know, for me it’s way more fun to see a random team like K-State or Louisiana Tech, instead of the same teams year in and year out.

No OOC games was a huge shot to me caring about this season, and I fear it’ll happen in the roundy ball sports too.

and

To what degree is parlagi’s question above influenced by Vandy’s greater likelihood of winning OOC games, excepting aTm and an unrecognized Big 12 team? Thanks, I’ll hang up and listen.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: You see, I am a proponent of the idea that Vanderbilt should just create an out-of-conference schedule of Georgia Tech, Tulane, and Sewanee every year, and I have no idea why the SEC insists that those are nonconference games while Missourah and Texas A&M are conference opponents, either.

I mean, neither of you are wrong, but I actually like having seven games on the schedule every year instead of the “pods” idea that the Banner Society crew has poisoned the discourse with.

Stanimal: I have a hard time getting up for non-P5 out of conference games. I mean I like to see us win, but I also like to see a challenge. Throughout the later Bobby Johnson years and the James Franklin years, there were a lot of “moral victories.” I hate moral victories, of course, but watching the Dores play good teams tight is what hope is all about.

As for hoops, I have the highest of expectations of our basketball program, and despite the absolute cluster of the past few years, I still don’t believe those expectations are unrealistic. Most OOC games have frankly only served to deliver disappointment to me in that regard.

Baseball... Corbin challenges the team every year against the best, and there’s not a program in the country I fear. It’s fantastic.

Doreontheplains: Nah. I can't get up for most OOC games. I get excited for the hope of an SEC upset.

The prospect of wins is nice though. The dread of laying a massive turd (hi UNLV) is always in the back of my mind.

Andrew VU ‘04: I’ll take this as only feetball specific, as I love conference games in Baseball and Shooty Hoops. I can see your point with feetball, Parlagi, as there are some SEC games that just give me PTSD. Oh, Alabama’s coming to town, you say? And our DT just called them out? Good, great grand...

On the positive note, some the most entertaining victories and moral victories in feetball in recent memory have been OOC games. I’m thinking the Notre Dame loss (which reeeeeeeally should have been a win) and the K-State win in the Mason era.

On the negative side, Temple, Western Kentucky, UNLV, and the game that made parlagi squeeeee over Jamey Chadwell.

(Gun rattles in teeth.)

As for the other sports, I have to assume you’re talking in season OOC games, and not postseason tournament games. Because of course, I love when we’re winning the CWS against the Wahoos and Wolverines (and sending that jackwagon Luke Smith home before the finals), but I would have loved beating, say, Clanga for the title just as much, if not more. 11.7% more.

The regular season OOC games just don’t do it for me for Baseball or Shooty Hoops, as outside the occasional beginning of the year tourney/invitational, we’re mostly talking about playing the Lipscomb Bisons, a supposed institute of higher learning that refuses to follow the rules of standard written English pluralizations.


Question from Westboundnup:

In the stretch of games comprised of USCe, @ Mizzou and Ole Miss, which do you view as the most “winnable”?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: It’s Ole Miss. Missourah is on the road (which, this year isn’t exactly the same as a “normal” road game, but still), and I am not going to tempt whatever voodoo the Game Penises have on us.

Stanimal: Gamecocks, if only to spite my brother-in-law.

Doreontheplains: Missourah. Keeping up with the Ole Miss offense could be a problem. Not touching the Chicken Curse. Even my optimism cannot break that voodoo.

Andrew VU ‘04: The Penises. As long as we do not suck, we can beat the Penises.


Questions from Brunodore and RocketcityVandy:

Who is the bigger masochist? Atlanta Falcons Fan through week 3

Or

Optimistic Vandy fan after a close loss to aTm?

and

Why do I do this to myself not just every year, but every week? Is being a Vanderbilt fan a sign of mental illness? Should I get myself checked out?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: The answer is always the Vandy fan with anything resembling optimism. And no, Vanderbilt fandom is not a sign of mental illness but it does tend to be correlated with a drinking problem. In this case, correlation does imply causation.

Stanimal: Holy sh*t do I know you? Were you speaking to me? Have you been talking to my therapist? (Goes and cries in the corner).

Doreontheplains: As the resident optimist, I get my heart broken a lot. Unlike the Falcons, our “optimism” is still tempered by previous expectations. They have a team that flirts with big prizes then fails in the most spectacular ways possible. Of course, that also means they get to experience more little joys over time to soften the big losses. We might get to “enjoy” Shreveport.

I think Tom nailed the mental illness piece.

Andrew VU ‘04: Got to go with the Falcons here. It’s so much worse to have an aging good team who continually fritters away leads than a bad team who you can at least root for hope for the future due to the potential our Freshman QB displayed against aTM. #LooseSeals #StillFireMasonThough


Question from Force10JC:

By my count Vanderbilt has the most all-time moral victories of all power 5 teams.

How far will an outright win against LSU at home set us back in our quest for the Moral Victory National Championship?

Answers from AoG:

Andrew VU ‘04: Does anyone remember the Vanderbilt sports blog Moral Victory? Does anyone know who used to run that blog? This seems like a question for him.

Stanimal: Andrew, I remember that blog, and I feel like I vaguely remember some email conversations back in the day, but I can’t place him.

We are so far ahead on moral victories, no one will ever come close anyone, so it won’t set us back at all.

Doreontheplains: In that case, an actual win just counts as a loss in the same way a blowout loss is not a moral victory. Preseason expectations were for Texas A&M and LSU to blow us out, so finding a moral victory in 1 of 2 would actually exceed Moral Victory National Championship expectations.

Tom Stephenson: Strangely, an actual win over LSU does not preclude further moral victories for the rest of the season.