There are, exactly, two things we know about the 2021 Vanderbilt football team.
- It is not coached by Derek Mason.
- It will not play a schedule consisting entirely of SEC teams.
Therefore, it is reasonable to think that Vanderbilt will win a football game this season. But what of its season opener? Vanderbilt enters the 2021 season having lost ten games in a row, but ironically, the Commodores will open the season by facing the last team they beat: the East Tennessee State Buccaneers, 38-0 losers to our Commodores back on November 23, 2019.
Yep, it’s been 651 days since Vanderbilt won a football game. Does that streak end on Saturday?
So, here’s what has me mildly worried about Saturday’s game. As FCS teams go, ETSU is now a pretty good one. They finished the spring 2021 season ranked in the FCS Top 25, they went 4-2 in the shortened season, their running back is legit, and they received some votes in the preseason FCS Top 25 this season.
And Vanderbilt, if you watched them at all last season, is bad. Things might have gotten better over the offseason, if you believe that coaching was the biggest problem with last year’s team, but they also probably got a bit worse with the losses of Dayo Odeyingbo, Andre Mintze, Keyon Henry-Brooks, and Donovan Kaufman. In other words, probably nothing is a gimme, not even a game against an FCS team.
With that said, there’s still a considerable gap between a pretty good FCS team and basically any FBS team. After all, the FCS team gets fewer scholarships and most of the players who go there are either guys who couldn’t get an FBS offer or played their way out of an FBS program. ETSU should worry you in a Murphy’s Law kind of sense, and I won’t put it past them to keep things competitive for a half or so... but really, this should only cause some mild heartburn for Vanderbilt fans.
The Pick: Vanderbilt 38, ETSU 14.
The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: I mean, somehow Georgia (+3) beating Clemson would qualify as an upset, so I’ll go with that.
Andrew VU ‘04
Like all of you, I have no idea what a Clark Lea coached Vanderbilt feetball team will look like. Still... it damn well better be able to blow the doors off a team like ETSU. I have confidence in both Ken “Loose Seal!” Seals and Mike “#1 Baseball Fan” Wright at QB, so I’m expecting them to put some points up on an outmatched defense. On defense... well, I have no earthly idea right now, as losing Odeyingbo will surely hurt. Still, you have to consider the competition.
If not, we drink bleach.
The Pick: Vanderbilt 31, ETSU 6.
New guy on the block gets a gimme pick with his first Vandy game, which will help me sleep better on Friday Night. ETSU is quickly gaining steam as Vanderbilt’s 2nd strongest in state rival, with linebacker Blake Bockrath already stirring the pot earlier this week, saying that they played a good defensive game against the ‘Dores in 2019, despite losing 38-0.
His comments do carry some merit, given that in hindsight that performance actually held future NFL talent in Kyle Shurmur and Ke’Shawn vaughn to a modest 38 points. I look for Clark Lea’s opener to follow a similar trajectory - a steady, decisive win that doesn’t run up the scoreboard. Ken seals throws for 3 TDs, and we get to see the much anticipated Mike Wright package in action.
The Pick: Vanderbilt 28, ETSU 3.
The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: Fortunately for Lane Kiffin, he lost 30 pounds this offseason in an effort to not hypocritically tell his players to eat better. He’ll unfortunately also lose his sophomore season opener against Louisville at a neutral field in Atlanta when NFL prospect Matt Corral throws a late decisive pick. Ole Miss fans will thankfully get an early muzzle this season, which will help all of our Twitter feeds.
The Vanderbilt offense has too much talent, even with questions on the offensive line, to not score quite a few points. More importantly, I don't see the worst case scenario for the OL to involve being bossed around by ETSU.
Defensively, I hope we see the aggressive style that is supposedly coming. If we do, we will overwhelm ETSU. Our defense was terrible by SEC standards. It should be able to handle an FCS offense though.
The Pick: Vanderbilt 41, ETSU 10.
The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: Yeah, it's Georgia over Clemson and the football coach with the dumbest nickname origin.