Well, that could certainly have gone better.
After a 23-3 loss to East Tennessee State in the season opener, the commentariat’s faith in Clark Lea has faded rapidly. But remember, after opening the 2014 season with a 37-7 loss to Temple, Derek Mason still probably had an opportunity to get the fan base to believe in him — only he followed it up with a pathetic 41-3 showing against Ole Miss, then famously needed a missed field goal to beat UMass.
It’s hard to say that Clark Lea needs a win at Colorado State on Saturday. But while Jeff Sagarin’s numbers say that Vanderbilt should be about a touchdown underdog in Fort Collins, after that, in nine of Vanderbilt’s ten remaining games the numbers say that the Commodores should be an underdog of more than two touchdowns. In other words, if Vanderbilt loses on Saturday, a 1-11 season is not only possible, it’s the most likely outcome for the 2021 season. (Thank God for UConn.)
So how much faith do the Anchor of Gold writers have in the Commodores?
I liked none of what I saw last Saturday. The offensive line got bullied by ETSU, the receivers couldn’t get separation — again, against ETSU — the defensive backs allowed some horrifying big plays, and I actively hate the two-quarterback rotation. And while I couldn’t care less about Clark Lea’s sideline demeanor, I do care that he elected to punt from the ETSU 37 — when his kicker had already converted a 53-yard field goal with room to spare!
There are two ways that this can go. Either the team comes out with a fight that simply wasn’t present in the ETSU game, Clark Lea learns that punting on the other side of the 50 is really dumb, and the coaching staff picks a quarterback and sticks with him, and this game is close if not a Vanderbilt win (Colorado State, after all, is not very good, as evidenced by the fact that they also got blown out by an FCS team in Week 1.) Or, the team comes out and looks like they did in Week 1, gets blown out, and I can start writing my basketball previews. (Shut up, the player report cards were finished.)
I choose to believe that it will be the former. It will probably be the latter.
The Pick: Colorado State 23, Vanderbilt 20.
The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: South Carolina sucks out loud. EAST CAROLINA (+2) does as well, but why are you expecting the Game Penises to come out of Greenville with a win?
Andrew VU ‘04
We were outmuscled by ETSU. They were bigger, stronger, and faster than us at many positions. Our O-Line is more of a suggestion. Don’t overthink it. If CSU is even remotely close to a functioning football team, we will lose. Oh, CSU is also not a functioning football team? A hell, time to throw a dart.
The Pick: Colorado State 27, Vanderbilt 13.
The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: These picks are always difficult on weeks where no SEC team faces another SEC team, and the only ones who scheduled an even remotely challenging game are the underdogs. I mean, I guess I’ll take the Penises, but I do think they’re going to win... so no. I really wanted MSU to be favored over QAnoNC State, but it was not to be. Fuck it, even though I have UK to cover, I can squint and see Missourah taking one home for the Big XII. Give me the TIGERS (+5) over the Cayuts. (Though don’t actually bet that way.)
PatrickSawyer (formerly known as DoreonthePlains)
I re-watched (3 quarters so far) that horror show. I'll save the big talking points for Lessons, which is late again because of who I am as a person, but I feel less terrible after watching it mostly sober and not in the midst of the horror.
I cannot see Seals playing so poorly again. The offense will find some rhythm against a terrible Rams front. Oh, and the defense might be less bad than we think. They really only gave up 13 points. Or CSU might just suck enough to stop themselves.
The Pick: Colorado State 17, Vanderbilt 20
The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: Colorado State 17, Vanderbilt 20, duh.
Anomaly or omen? Clark Lea doesn’t really get a honeymoon because of his predecessor’s infamous screw up against Temple. The ETSU loss, arguably worse (and probably easy to argue was worse), has taken the luster off the “Tim Corbin disciple” pitch that seems to be applied to non-baseball sports. The question, quite simply, is whether Clark Lea is ready to build a completely bottomed football program in the toughest conference in college football from the ground up. Losing to teams you shouldn’t lose to doesn’t help that cause. It also doesn’t help that the boys from Vegas, who started only giving Colorado State one point, are now giving them seven. There’s a difference between being a fan and saying it’s ludicrous, and realizing the objective truth that they could be right. I think we cover pretty easy because Colorado State is equally poor, but who wins is largely a shoulder shrug.
The Pick: Optimism says Vandy 17-13. Gotta be low scoring if we’re going to pull it off.
The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: Kind of cheating, but I’ll say Mississippi State over NC State. I don’t want to pick THEM, and there aren’t really any other upsets to pick since most games are out-of-conference.
There are basically two trains of thought here. On one hand, what we all witnessed last Saturday night gave us every indication that this team is beyond helpless, and that choosing to watch them the rest of the season would be deemed mentally unhealthy by most psychologists.
Or, there’s the optimist’s perspective that Coach Lea simply learned last weekend everything NOT to do when coaching a football team. I’m gonna put my reputation on the line here and say this is the case. Ken Seals finds his groove, the defense performs well, and Vanderbilt gets its first win late into the night on Saturday, giving us all a reason to come to the Stanford game on the 18th.
The Pick: Vanderbilt 20, CSU 10
The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: In a preview of what will soon be an annual matchup between the Hogs and Horns, Arkansas crushes Texas’ dreams of being “back” in week 2. Look for the game to look similar to week 1’s UNC at VT, where the insecure road team looking to prove themselves as a contender fails to seize the moment.