clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Week Eight Football Mail Bag: Answers to your Questions

You ask, we answer.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 15 Vanderbilt at Georgia
Heads on pikes.
Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Question from Dinard’oh:

The worst is behind us now, right? Right!?

Seriously though, this is like carrying all your groceries in one hand, forearm burning as you unlock your front door, only to nearly launch a tin of sardines into orbit when you pick it up because your muscles are used to the sheer, maddening weight of playing in a conference full of Neanderthals and semi-pro knuckle-draggers who just keep reloading while you stare into the abyss and say “going to Missouri (spits) should be pleasant” and know your soul must be dying because Missouri (spits) is like Aokigahra with meth labs and nothing is ever pleasant about a trip there, and this is supposed to be a question, so how soon do you think we might make a bowl game again thanksI’llhangupandlisten?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I mean, I could see a bowl game happening next season. Though weirdly the current state of Missourah (spits), Florida, and South Carolina would have made this an ideal year to have a team good enough to make a bowl game, and who knows if that will still be the case next year when we don’t have Alabama on the schedule.

Doreontheplains: The worst stretch is behind us. We still play THEM. And I'll be at that game.

Ignoring the slim likelihood of backdooring an APR bowl birth at 5-7, next season is interesting with basically everyone able to return. The schedule lays out as well as it can in the SEC, especially if Auburn retains Harsin.

Cole Sullivan: I am still thinking a bowl game is in the cards this year, but it isn’t likely. I do think, especially given an easier interdivisional opponent and hopefully a regressing Wake Forest team on the schedule next year, we can be competitive for a bowl game then and going forward. It will mostly come down to a few key changes in the offseason that I think Lea will be able to make should he choose to do so.

Andrew VU ‘04: With respect to this football season, yes. With respect to life, this is highly unlikely, as usually the last few moments are often, undoubtedly, the worst. Hey, something to look forward to, right?

Oh wait... no... we still have to play the Chuggers, and unless they get taken down a peg or two before Thanksgiving, as tryptophan, heavy foods, and booze won’t be enough to tire those French’s Mustard Chuggers down. That game... will not be fun.

Question from Force10JC:

Three consecutive beatdowns where the opponents scored 55, 52, 55 while we combined to score an average of 10 does not exactly feel like improvement. I know it was three consecutive top 10 teams, but come on. Can you talk me down off the ledge I seem to perpetually be standing upon with VU football?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I admit to being surprised at how much people are losing their shit over the most recent three-game stretch. I mean, I hate losing to Ole Miss too, but I don’t particularly care about whether we lost to Alabama and Georgia 55-0 or 48-17 or whatever. What I did notice in both of those games is that we didn’t look completely helpless as we did the last time we played Georgia. It just... didn’t translate into points, for whatever reason. (And for some reason we allowed Georgia’s second and third string to score three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, which almost has to be guys quitting because I have no other explanation for that.) Anyway, I’m not really taking much away from anything other than that we led Ole Miss at the half before we decided to completely shit the bed. We’re making progress.

Doreontheplains: The worst part was going from leading at half versus Ole Miss to losing by 24.

I would rather score a few times against the NFL practice squads, but it is a bit immaterial.

Cole Sullivan: Look, it was pretty much the hardest 3-game stretch any team will play all year. You don’t have to expect us to win, but let’s at least have fun. Laugh when we get beat bad because hey, it’s funny to get beat bad with a coach promising national titles. But remember that we’re closer to a national title winning team than we were last year, and that there’s plenty of season left. We’ll get through this together.

Andrew VU ‘04: There was never going to be anything to learn from the Ramajama nor Ugga games. Further, any growth was going to be stunted once the Ackbars figured out they could just launch deep bombs, Sexy Rexy-style at us and there was nothing we could do about it. Still, I did see some growth, as A.J. Swann is still standing, wasn’t pounded into a jelly, nor changed into a turnover machine.

That’s not nothing. That’s that thing with feathers.

Question from VU1970:

Ok, the worst is over, albeit smoke and flame are rising from Mordor to the east. Win-loss record aside for the moment, what would steady improvement from now until Them-a-geddon look like? Is it even possible? And how sweet would it be to knock the Chuggers off just when they were poised to grab the ring of mustard or whatever?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Yes, it would be hilarious if Tennessee goes into that game 11-0 and we win. Beat Bama and Georgia, lose to Vanderbilt? Oh, they’ll never live that one down. Steady improvement looks like... well, it looks like beating Missourah (spits) and at the very least coming close against South Carolina, Kentucky, and Florida.

Doreontheplains: Win an SEC/Big 8 game and avoid any blowouts.

If we win that game, I am going to burn Vol Twitter to the ground and be dancing on graves as the Volololols file out of FirstBank Stadium.

Cole Sullivan: Steady improvement looks like playing Tennessee better than we played Bama, with a win or two along the way. It would be incredibly sweet to beat an undefeated Knoxville State. It keeps me up at night thinking about it.

Andrew VU ‘04: What Tom said, though with one caveat. I think we’ll continue to see steady improvement from the offense, as the more Swann practices and plays with his weapons, the more he’ll learn how to use them (and the more the coaching staff will learn regarding what plays to deploy when so as to maximize our various skillsets). From the secondary, though? Man... maybe we’ll get some butter to go with all that toast?

Question from BarnDore1950:

If the transfer portal rules remain as they are now, does Vanderbilt have any hope of competing in this league without bringing more guys from the portal, particularly in the skilled/speed positions? After all in a couple of years, its [sic] Texas and Oklahoma coming into the SEC not Rice and Tulane. I will hang up and listen.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Let me reiterate that I hate the Transfer Portal just on principle and don’t want Vanderbilt playing that game, but let’s also point this out: when Ole Miss takes 17 guys out of the transfer portal, that’s 17 scholarships that aren’t going to high school recruits. Where do you think those guys are going? Do you think they’re suddenly not playing college football? The point is that attacking the high school side of the equation is likely to be more profitable than it’s been, while getting in bidding wars for transfers looking for that sweet sweet bagman handout (yeah, no, this doesn’t have anything to do with Name Image and Likeness, that’s just what a lot of people are wrongly calling the now-legal-for-some-reason bribe money that the University of Tennessee is handing out before the IRS shuts that down, because the IRS, unlike the NCAA, does occasionally enforce the rules) is a losing battle.

The other thing worth noting here is that I doubt the portal remains as it’s been the last couple of years. Remember, at any other point in the history of college football, Hendon Hooker would be either in the NFL or selling insurance right now, and a lot of guys made choices they weren’t happy with because official visits were shut down. Pretty soon, hitting the transfer market is going to go back to guys who couldn’t hack it (or caused issues in the locker room) at another school or guys who were overlooked out of high school for a reason.

Doreontheplains: Short term? Maybe not. Long term? The portal has sharply diminishing returns. Rentals are nice for the moment, but it is even harder to get quality fits from the portal than high school since those players have less eligibility to be molded.

Texas and Oklahoma joining will not appreciably increase the strength of schedule unless the SEC office goes to a 10-game schedule or keeps the P5 out of conference requirement when adding a 9th conference game.

Cole Sullivan: The Leanaissance is built around lasting, sustainable change. That type of transformation from the ground-up is unsustainable if you are relying on the transfer portal. Ultimately I think Lea wants us built in the fashion of, at least in my opinion, most of the consistently successful modern NBA teams: home-grown talent with one or two stars and role players plugged in from outside the organization given season-to-season needs. That means that we’ll continue to focus on recruiting and developing the best prospects we can, and I think we’ll only see better and better prospects in the years to come, but that maybe we’ll take a hard swing at something like a safety that we so badly need if we can’t find one on the recruiting trail. I’m not the type of person to keep up with every detail of college recruitment, but that seems to me to be what the general plan is for a consistently strong program, and I think Lea is trying to build us that way.

Andrew VU ‘04: Let’s talk about the mess that is the Oklahoma Sooners for a bit. The OK Boomers made the mistake of hiring a defensive minded coach after years of having great success with offensive minded ones—as if the offense would just stay the same, but Lunchables would be able to turn the defense around, thereby making them a complete team. Well... how’s that working out for them? In short, I think when Tejas joins our Grupo de la Muerte, they’ll have about as much success as aTm has had (though I expect aTm to regress), but the Normaniacs? Man, they could turn into anything from Arky to Missourah (spits), and brother, I am here for it.

Question from ask_thedoctor:

I’m overall liking the uniforms this year, but I do miss the Deep Water uniforms from a few years ago. What have been y’all’s favorite uniform combinations this year, and what changes/improvements* would you like to see made to them?

*you are prohibited from mentioning the new logo in the course of answering this question. PROHIBITED!

On a more serious note:

The worst is behind us, but yet there’s a chance that we play four tea,s [sic] ranked in the Top 10 at the time we’ve played them with an average of 10 points scored. Is the number of Top 10 teams we’ve played a school record? Is the low, low number of points also a Vanderbilt record?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I honestly don’t pay much attention to the uniforms, unless we’re doing something stupid like wearing gray, but I do seem to notice that it’s been forever since we wore gold as anything other than an accent color, and I’m wondering why exactly we decided to de-emphasize gold in our color scheme. It’s weird.

As for the second question — well, yeah, I doubt we’ve ever played that many top 10 teams in a row. It’s stupid.

Cole Sullivan: What new logo?

Andrew VU ‘04: Yeah, I generally do not care about uniforms, as long as you don’t look absolutely hideous (like the San Diego Padres). I’ll go with the Gangster Pajamas, then the all cream combo.

Doreontheplains: I’ve liked everything so far except the most recent home combo against Ole Miss. I do not like white pants at home, especially for a school like Vanderbilt that has two true primary colors. Also not a big fan of white helmets at home, but white-black-black would have been alright.

Gold-black-gold is our best home look. The current Stormtroopers are damn good, too. As far as improvements go, I wish the black helmet had a fully gold V instead of just a gold outline with the black fill. It is hard to see the V in the stadium with such a thin border line.

Questions from VandyFanBR & ConquerAnd Prevail:

it seems pretty clear to me that the team had improved over last season, but after the last years of the Mason era and the NIL deals that allows other SEC programs to recruit NFL players coming out of high school, the talent gap is just to big to overcome even with goog [sic] coaching and player development?

...also, outside of the three years under the old bald coach, most of us haven’t seen Vanderbilt football be good and probably never will, so why bother when we have baseball and basketball?

i know what football means but we have the titans in Nashville so is a lot less sadistic if we just don’t care for Vandy football (im afraid that’s not possible but I’m in a bad mood today so fuck it lol)


Follow-up QFTMB: Cornelius straight up would be monopolizing the NIL talent right now. But really, how do we solidify key elements of our roster against poaching

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: All right, I’m gonna pistol whip the next one of you who says NIL. And you’re banned from Dippits Burger.

Cole Sullivan: Our talent is better this year than last year, and as long as we retain a critical mass of that talent, we can only go up. If we slowly but steadily build a recruiting strategy around flashy helicopter rides, a strong vision, and on-the-field success, there is no reason we can’t at least compete with teams that are slowly but surely adopting the corrosive “Way of the Bagman.” It’s the Leanaissance for me. Even if we can’t consistently beat the Scrooge McA&Ms of the world, I think we can build a strong, sustainably successful program our own way.

Andrew VU ‘04: Well, we have to at least pretend to try at feetball, lest we lose the SEC TV money that allows us to fully fund baseball and shooty hoops. Also, it’s legitimately fun to be the underdog sometimes. I know it didn’t work out this year, but how fun was it to beat Ugga in Athens for their Homecoming? How fun is it when we just ruin the whole years of the Chuggers you know from work?

As for the NIL stuff, I have no earthly idea. Forget it, Dores, it’s Chinatown.

Doreontheplains: Look, the university is finally at least pretending to care about and invest in sports. Why the hell are fans at the jumping off point? If I was on the way out from Mason, I would at least be in some “wait and see” mode. And don’t give me “We have heard these things for years.” No, we have heard rumors and scuttlebutt that changes were coming. The university has never announced actual financial investment, even if the details are somewhat vague, anywhere near $300M nor on the physical scale of what we have seen announced. Will it help? Who knows. Maybe a seat on the sideline is fine until you see if the return excites you in 5 or 6 years. But, please, stop advocating to kill football when we MIGHT see some light at the end of the tunnel. Even if the light is just “6-6 with the bowl deciding whether it is a winning season” more often than not.

And I feel that way about all sports. I hate seeing folks go “It’s just [insert non-revenue] sport,” so I especially do not like seeing fans suggest we give up on the sport that subsidizes most of the others. To that end, I will literally take 0-12* in football while playinging in the SEC every year if that means bowling, tennis, soccer, etc all get to continue and can play at a high level.

*This assumes there is legitimate intent by the administration to win, and it is incompetence not malfeasance that causes the results.

Question from WestEndMayhem:

At least Franklin is getting torched by the media.

Question: Four tough losses, all against top 13 teams (per the AP poll at the time of writing). Why doesn’t the mathematics department simply invent a new type of math to give us a more preferential ranking? Perhaps we can develop it off of a base 81 counting system, and utilize geometry- Vanderbilt, possessing 81 characters if typed 9 types, can be the keystone while in this new approach. All other teams will derive their worth off of the graphic presention of their name count- Georgia, having seven characters, does not have a rats-ass chance to be number one, and we simply do not let Tennessee be the top rank based on our collective megrim. I foresee some confusion, but because we use geometry, the numbers will always sum to some configuration of pi (used in circular building), so why not give it a whirl?

Utilizing a base 81 counting system for ranking will also allow us to redevelop scoring- our field goals can be worth 27, whereas teams like Kentucky will only earn 3 for a field goal still because I dislike them. This is due to how many times 3 fits into 9, and how 81 is the baseline (like we use ten today).

Woe to the heretics- our aplomb will be backed by our dedication to our new math and ranking, and our assurance made certain on the gridiron. We shall win, we shall be a perpetual first, we shall have atomic might and inevitable light, and 81 will be our 10. Lord Cornelius shall return [...] Anywho, thoughts on the new tight end utilization?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I think it’s fine? I’ve always wondered why we decided that tight ends were so good when most of them just end up being slower wide receivers, which... I don’t know. I like Gavin Schoenwald and it’s weird that Lea has gotten way more out of him than Mason did. Or maybe that’s not weird.

Cole Sullivan: That was a lot of words. Tight ending though. I can definitely answer that question: Lea is a fullback. He does not know what to do with tight ends. If he does, maybe he doesn’t want to incorporate fifth-year tight ends into his program when he could just as easily wait a year and build up his offense with his own recruits who will be in the system for years to come. I’m not sure what the deal is, but it’s probably something like that.

Andrew VU ‘04: You’re not one of those Jonah Ryan voters who wants to ban Arabic numerals, are you?

Doreontheplains: Tight ends are useful when they can be matchup problems. For old-school teams that means they are big, physical blockers who give LBs trouble when the TE does go out for a pass. For primarily spread teams, the TE needs to be an issue for the LB, too, but is most importantly bigger than the extra DBs, so you can either isolate and dictate where the LB lines up to cover the TE OR get a large man against a much smaller man downfield whether blocking or in jump ball scenarios. For Vanderbilt, it made sense to be primarily in two TE sets when Mike Wright was behind center since they are better blockers and can help pave the way for an option attack while sneaking out for passes.

The more traditional passing attack with Swann at QB could use more single TE looks, but maybe there have been some injury issues that meant Schoenwald and Bresnahan were the best options to have on the field. Ben has shown he can be a problem when LBs have to cover him, but he has been less utilized than Schoenwald. It just feels awkward to use two TEs in so many spread sets. They do make good blockers on screens and sweeps though. So, I don’t hate it, but it feels overdone and also seems to not be done to its best effectiveness.

Question from Parlagi:

Cobbling together a question from a hodgepodge of comments in the game thread.

I-AA teams like Charleston Southern, Mercer, and Furman manage to score TDs against the biggest guns of the FBS. Even Hawaii’s tire fire scored a TD against Michigan, and we all saw how bad Hawaii is.

Meanwhile, in 12 quarters vs. Georgia and Alabama, Vanderbilt has been outscored 172-3 and outgained by 1400 yards. Is a single TD in those 3 games really too much to ask, particularly with essentially six quarters against third-stringers and walk-ons? In the second half, the offense had 45 yards of offense and never crossed midfield.

Anyway, if you don’t want to answer that, could you share your favorite GNR album track?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: And we’d have scored a touchdown against Georgia if Will Sheppard had held on to a very catchable ball, and it would have been against their first string. And that’s often how teams like that will score on the big boys: a guy goes 80 yards on a busted coverage, something like that.

Cole Sullivan: The best college football teams are so much better than all other teams that it takes flukes to score regardless of the team, and massive strategical miscalculations for top programs to struggle a la Georgia against Kent State or Missouri. Those miscalculations can often be hammered out at halftime. The best example of this is probably The Citadel at Alabama a few years ago; they were tied 10-10 at half and Bama scored like a thousand points in the second half. Vanderbilt just didn’t get lucky, and when we did like with big passes or kick attempts, we can’t actually follow through. Things will get better.

My favorite GNR track is probably Patience or November Rain, although it’s all great.

Andrew VU ‘04: Take me down to the Stallings-dise City, where the heads are bald and the Baldwins threatened...

Doreontheplains: It is frustrating, but it’s also immaterial. Like, would having 13 points in each of the Alabama and Georgia games change anything? It may be viewed as progress, but we did drop 28 on Ole Miss. Those 28 points match the most points scored against a P5 team from last year (Missourah). We put up 25 against another Top 25 team in Wake. Let’s slow down on comparisons to what Kent State and company did in their one shot at a top team who probably was planning for their next opponent most of the week. Let’s see how the offense does in the games that should be competitive because they have done well in those games so far.

Question from 92Drummer:

QFTMB: Sooo…just how awesome is our punter? What are his NFL prospects?

Other than that, I gots nuthin. What question should I ask? I know…how are the BB reports coming along? Oh wait…wrong thread. I’ve got one of those Dutch ovens around here somewhere…sounds like an E# when struck with a Ginsu tomato cutter. Maybe I’ll make chili for lunch.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: It’s bad that we use our punter so much, but I am also waiting for him to lay out a punt returner, Carey Spear-style.

Cole Sullivan: Ooo I could go for some chili right now. Instead I write this while eating my PB&J lunch because you are never too old for the classics.

Andrew VU ‘04: I’ve got to be honest, it wasn’t until the announcers pointed out last week that our punter might have an NFL future that I even noticed him. This is the irony of being good at punting. As for the Chili, I do have one recommendation for the meat: half ground beef, half hot Italian sausage (taken out of the casings, obviously). That, and use real chilis instead of powders. It was a game changer for me.

Doreontheplains: Specialists projections are weird as hell. Kickers get taken in the second round after setting college accuracy records then be out of the league in no time.

Question from LADores2011:

I am back from the dead to specifically bring this up.

SEC and larger CFB related questions, there are a few and they may necessitate a longer discussion/article, but I’m fine with that. Answer a few in the mailbag if you want and the rest later. Most you could call conjecture, sure, but play along for the sake of interesting discussion…


My family is all embedded deeply in non-Vandy SEC circles, and I was the one to go to the little brother academics school... The rumblings are that within 5 years, the SEC/B1G should split off from the NCAA and form their own super league, effectively “Semi-Pro”, and it’s inevitable given the ruling that players can be paid and the subsequent moves (OU/UT, USC/UCLA). Your major revenue players (elite football, maybe elite MBB in future) will be included, with everyone else - and all other sports - left to fall back to the NCAA. Conferences directly pull money without NCAA licensure on CFB and possible NFL partnership. Relegation potentially, but not initially. Schools such as Vandy and Northwestern, who prioritize academics, will be on the outside looking in, Charter School be damned since it’s a new league formation. (If you dismiss all this as a possibility, you don’t work in business or you are ignoring the numbers.)


What’s the probability of this actually occurring in your mind/the Anchor’s hive mind, and what’s the timeline if it does?

If Vandy gets to create the new Conference of the South, who comes with us? (Wake, Duke, Baylor, and?…)


At what point should we start considering this as a real possibility and position our program and athletics appropriately? The SEC won’t let our administration drain money from the conference forever. As for the value we currently provide (academics, non-revenue sports, charter member, TV market), that no longer exists once the ugly underbelly of college athletics gets its way with a new super conference and massive TV revenue rights.

Think of it this way: will the “student athlete” model cease to exist at these semi-pro schools? I think it will. It barely does now. Elites players in CFB and MBB, at the ethically ambiguous schools, have been paid for years (I know this from playing golf with boosters from very blue, red, and orange schools…). Give them degrees in “football operations” with no academic credits required and cease the charade. Sports is now a business and it’s their decision.

Vanderbilt obviously doesn’t agree with this, and I don’t think it should. I’d also personally prefer to be with similar minded schools that believe in the “student athlete” model who aren’t planning to sell out themselves and their kids. Let the two models separate instead of fighting to keep them together. Assuming this happens, what remains and what’s the structure?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I ain’t reading all that, sorry.

Cole Sullivan: I’ll take a crack at offering short answers to some of these questions. I think the probability is low, but that may be wishful thinking. I mostly just watch Vandy games and hope we do well. My Magnolia League looks like us, Duke, Tulane, and Wake Forest for starters and give me Memphis while you’re at it. Maybe take a few Sun Belt and AAC schools like App, CCU, ECU, and Troy. Give me UAB and SMU if they don’t make it into the Super League. After that we’ll probably take one or two kinda oddball schools like USF and Tulsa to expand our footprint because I’ve been told that is important. I’m sure there’s one or two good picks I missed, but that’s my base coat of teams. Finally, as long as Vanderbilt is still playing football, still competing for national championships in baseball, and still fielding a women’s soccer and bowling teams, I think I’m okay with whatever we choose to do. I want to watch us whenever I can, and if that means paying guys, well okay I think they deserve to get paid if we are making oodles of cash. If that means not paying guys and staying put when the Super League forms, well okay let’s make sure we’re competitive when that happens and maybe we can be like the NDSU of the second-tier league: dominant for years to come. I’d prefer we end up in the top league, but I’ll still be a Vandy fan regardless. Anchor Down Forever.

Andrew VU ‘04: That’s got to be the record for the longest question ever asked by a zombie.

Doreontheplains: Not to disrespect the question, but there are a frick ton of moving parts. Whatever happens, I think it is going to be bad for college football because the folks that love college football as it is are going to watch the sport lose everything about the sports that differentiates it from the NFL. And the talent level is still going to be worse than the NFL. Bad college football is still very entertaining. Bad NFL football is torture that would make a hardened Russian spy sing.