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Saturday Tailgate: Texas A&M

Note: tailgate banned because of COVID precautions.

Well, hello there. Back for another football season, are we?

So what’s transpired since the last time Vanderbilt played a football game — November 30, 2019, which it may surprise you to learn was only ten months ago. Well, Derek Mason is still the head coach for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, though he did fire both of last year’s coordinators (deservedly so, I might add) and also saw literally the entire quarterback room leave with Riley Neal graduating, Deuce Wallace from all accounts giving up on football, Allan Walters and Mo Hasan transferring. Three of the four started at least one game for Vanderbilt last season, and all four took at least one snap. Vanderbilt is also now on its third athletic director in two years after Malcolm Turner resigned in February, replaced initially on an interim basis and later on a permanent basis by Candice Storey Lee, formerly a Vanderbilt basketball player and David Williams’ aide-de-camp.

There was also a global pandemic, which (a) is why we’re starting the season today, September 26, and not three weeks ago, (b) why we’re not playing any non-conference games, and (c) why basically our entire projected starting offensive line will not be playing this season.

Oh yeah, and there was also this. Let’s just not talk about it, because Vanderbilt isn’t.

It’s certainly been an interesting offseason for a team that went 3-9 last year and which even the most optimistic among us can’t see squeezing more than a win or two out of this year’s ten-game, SEC-only football schedule. But how was your offseason?

And yet, we are glad to finally have the offseason behind us, a sentiment that will likely hold until approximately 6:45 PM (Central Daylight Time) today, or whenever true freshman quarterback and Certified Program Savior Ken Seals leads the Vanderbilt offense to its first three-and-out of the season. At that point, the pitchforks will dutifully come out in a way that they would not have had Vanderbilt made a coaching change after last season.

That is, of course, the problem here. I do not normally enjoy calling for a coach’s firing — these are, after all, men with families — but sometimes, it must be done if only to show the fans that you are acting in good faith and are not simply content to go 3-9 and collect your Southeastern Conference revenue distribution check. What would be a season filled with the hope and optimism that lasts as long as the New Coach Smell instead is a slog that many of us are doing because we don’t know any different. Watching Vanderbilt football games on Saturdays in the fall is just what we do. And thanks to the pandemic, weirdos like parlagi can’t even keep themselves otherwise entertained by finding NAIA games available to stream on the darkest corners of the internet.

So, on to the 2020 football season, which will probably only add to our general misery.

Anchor of Gold This Week

So! What have we been doing this week?

We preview Texas A&M’s offense and defense, we answered your questions in our weekly mailbag. Vanderbilt released its first depth chart of the season, which listed four quarterbacks as possible starters for tonight’s game and was quickly rendered obsolete when word leaked on Thursday that Ken Seals, a true freshman from Weatherford, Texas, will be the starter. We also reviewed Derek Mason’s season-opening press conference, which really only informed us of a few injuries and yet another COVID-related opt-out (which puts us at six.) Patrick talked about the lessons of the offseason, and we all tried to predict tonight’s game. (Hint: we all think Vanderbilt will lose.)

Oh, yeah, and the SEC media picked us to finish seventh in the East, because of course they did (and... we don’t really have an argument that they won’t.)

I gave out my weekly dose of Bad Gambling Advice, which differed from my picks in the weekly staff pick ‘em contest because I am an idiot (and so are you if you wager actual money on the basis of my picks.) I also took my weekly trip around the SEC, and the soccer team won its season opener over Kentucky.

Anchor Drop: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

There’s Other Football

While we assume that if you’re reading this, you’re watching Vanderbilt at Texas A&M — which kicks off at 6:30 PM CT on the SEC Network alternate channel — there are, in fact, other football games to be played this Saturday, the first Saturday on the SEC’s schedule. Here is your guide to the early, afternoon, and late windows today.

The Early Shift

11:00 AM CT

  • Kansas State at Oklahoma (FOX)
  • Florida at Ole Miss (ESPN)
  • Kentucky at Auburn (SEC Network)
  • UCF at East Carolina (ABC)
  • Georgia Southern at UL Lafayette (ESPN2)
  • Louisville at Pittsburgh (ACC Network)
  • Georgia Tech at Syracuse (FSN/ESPN3)
  • Georgia State at Charlotte (ESPNU)
  • Campbell at Appalachian State (ESPN+)

12:00 PM CT

  • Florida International at Liberty (ESPN3)
  • Eastern Kentucky at The Citadel (ESPN3)

12:30 PM CT

  • Iowa State at TCU (FS1)

1:30 PM CT

  • Tulane at Southern Miss (Stadium)

What to watch: Well, we’re contractually obligated to tell you to watch Campbell-Appalachian State. The two SEC games are sort of interesting: Kentucky might actually be good enough to spring an upset at Auburn, and Lane Kiffin makes his debut at Ole Miss. Somehow, UCF-East Carolina is on a national over-the-air broadcast. The best game here might actually be Louisville-Pitt, both of which are at the back end of the currently Big Ten and Pac-12 free Top 25.

The Afternoon Shift

2:30 PM CT

  • Mississippi State at LSU (CBS)
  • Texas at Texas Tech (FOX)
  • West Virginia at Oklahoma State (ABC)
  • Army at Cincinnati (ESPN)
  • UTEP at UL Monroe (ESPN2)

3:00 PM CT

  • Georgia at Arkansas (SEC Network)
  • Duke at Virginia (ACC Network)

5:00 PM CT

  • Texas State at Boston College (FSN/ESPN3)

What to watch: UTEP-UL Monroe, duh. Really, though, Army-Cincinnati looks like the best game in this time slot, and you probably can’t go wrong with West Virginia-Oklahoma State. I won’t really hold it against you if you watch Mississippi State-LSU; I’ll probably be watching Texas-Texas Tech. (I will, however, hold it against you if you watch Georgia-Arkansas. What the hell is wrong with you?)

The Evening Shift

6:00 PM CT

  • Alabama at Missouri (ESPN)
  • Houston Baptist at Louisiana Tech (ESPN3)
  • Stephen F. Austin at SMU (ESPN+)

6:30 PM CT

  • Florida State at Miami (ABC)
  • Tennessee at South Carolina (SEC Network)
  • Kansas at Baylor (ESPNU)
  • Vanderbilt at Texas A&M (SEC Network Alternate)

7:00 PM CT

  • NC State at Virginia Tech (ACC Network)
  • Missouri State at Central Arkansas (ESPN3)

What to watch: Well, obviously, you’re watching Vanderbilt-Texas A&M if you’re an Anchor of Gold reader. Should you feel compelled to turn away, maybe you can go watch Tennessee lose. This entire window is pretty blah, though. Florida State-Miami should be competitive but probably not watchable. Kansas-Baylor is the Big 12 version of Vanderbilt-Texas A&M, and of course there are two FCS-on-FBS games here.

Ah, fuck it, maybe go watch Missouri State-Central Arkansas.

The Late Shift

9:15 PM CT

  • Troy at BYU (ESPN)

Thank God for BYU. With the Pac-12 and Mountain West out of commission for another month or so, we’re left with just two teams in the Mountain and Pacific Time Zones currently playing football. One is UTEP, which you probably forgot about because you didn’t realize that El Paso is on Mountain Time. The other is BYU, which is down for the only game in the late-evening time slot.