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Week Thirteen Football Mail Bag: Answers to your Questions

You ask, we answer.

Florida v Vanderbilt Photo by Carly Mackler/Getty Images

Question from Jessecuster44:

... Is there a chance VU wins 3 straight and goes bowling, or has the loss to SC and the locker room fighting only made the felons to the east angry, and a boatrace ensues?

Also, what one thing will the refs do to “F Vandy” over next weekend?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: It’s UT. The locker room imploding after an embarrassing loss to South Carolina is always a safe bet.

Doreontheplains: I will be the negative one. I am like some crazy, out of control metronome when it comes to this game. It is going to go really well or really poorly. I think we will know early on whether Tennessee has come together or is pulling apart. Also, Joe Milton is the wildcard having not played much since losing his job and being a talented but inconsistent QB.

There will be a defensive touchdown one way or the other that screws us over. Either Vanderbilt will create an obvious turnover with clearly clean return for a TD that gets halted (even if turnover is granted) or Tennessee will be allowed a dubious turnover they return that replay finds a way not to overturn.

Cole Sullivan: Some teams get pissed, other teams get pissy. I think Tennessee falls in the latter camp. They will be angry and overdeserving and everyone in the country will want to see us beat them. I think we pull it out because I think we have the world to play for while Tennessee is probably just going to pout its way through the game.

Andrew VU ‘04: I’m not sure “overdeserving” is a word, Cole, but I think I can see what you’re going for. Perhaps a mix of entitlement, hubris, and drinking with one’s butts? Feels like a 98% chance of that being the case. All hail the Mandator and whatnot...

Back to the question, there is absolutely a chance we go bowling. First of all, Hail Pinman. Second, Vanderbilt is a bowling school. Third, HATED RIVAL MCKENDREE.

I keep getting sidetracked. Back to feetball. The scuttlebutt out of Buttchugger-land is that prior to their all-time implosion against The Game Penises—and Hendon Hooker tearing his Tendon Hooker (I know the ACL is a ligament, but “Ligament Hooker” lacks the witty wordplay I require)—is that a Buttchugging defender (LB Jeremy Banks) disrespected the logo (likely stepped on it). That chugger proceeded to punch Hooker (allegedly) after Hooker did the “Team Captain upholds team culture” correct thing and got in his face about stepping on the logo in the locker room. In hockey, if someone so much as even touches the logo in the locker room, those French Canadians, Norsemen, and people named Jonesy will straight up cut a bitch with their skate blade. All this before what was ostensibly a “win and you’re in the playoffs” type game. OO!

In short, whereas The New Bald Coach Clark Lea excised his clubhouse cancer (DBs Coach Tinfoil Hat McThirdReich) and has his team playing their best football in years, Chugger coach Bobby Hill all grown up lost his Elder Statesman Transfer Heisman QB that has had about as much an effect on the Orange Team to the East’s feetball success as did Joe Burrow in the same role with LSU in ‘19, and has defenders stomping logos and punching captains (same dude, but still). Short of Old Man Bobby Hill putting on the uniform and a cape on the sidelines, we’ll have the team cohesion and QB advantage in this one.

Oh, and Mike Wright has basically played like a much faster Patton Robinette these past few weeks. The Hypothesis keeps getting confirmed in double-blind tests, as well.


p.s. It’s cute that you think the refs will only do one.

Question from Your Uncle Mike:

A team and fanbase that you despise with every fiber of your being turns around and beats another team that you depise [sic] with every fiber of your being. You’re very happy that it happened but you don’t want to be happy for the winning team and fanbase. How does one deal with the emotion. I’ll hang up and listen.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Just remember that what South Carolina actually accomplished was to improve Clemson’s playoff odds.

Doreontheplains: I’m the wrong person to ask. I am not an SC fan, but they are probably my least hated of all the SEC teams. Celebrate away!

Cole Sullivan: I hate Tennessee so much. Don’t get me wrong, I hope Clemson beats the wheels off South Carolina after the Gamecocks got that sliver of hope this past week, but more than anything I want to watch Tennessee suffer and burn. I have no conflicting emotions, just hatred for Tennessee.

Andrew VU ‘04: Though you may hate one with every fiber in your being, when one hated team’s success means the abject humiliation of the team you hate with every fiber of your body, plus every fiber of clothing you own, and throw in every fiber in the world’s supply of Metamucil (which, not coincidentally, is also orange), you laugh the laughter of a thousand Schadenfreude’s. No, not a thousand. Feels more like 98 hundred.

In short, consult what I said on the celebration thread:

I pride myself on having empathy for even my biggest rivals, but the lead line, “Hooker Goes Down in Agony During Penis Drubbing” is just too much for my brain to handle right now.

Question from VU1970:

Will the Chuggers make it all the way into ESPN’s Bottom Ten, or will they fail in even that mission? Regardless of the outcome, how much credit is due to their innovative use of mustard enemas? Has any team ever been ranked in the top ten after giving up 63 points to a team like South Cackalacka? But seriously, if we beat Them, will we get a better bowl than Them?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: The closest I can think of is Nebraska in 2001 getting boatraced by Colorado. But the latter was also in the top ten.

And, it depends on whether you really think the Citrus Bowl is better than the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl. Both involve a trip to the I-4 corridor of Florida so really, what’s the difference?

Doreontheplains: Literally no Top 10 team has ever given up 63 points to an unranked team since the AP Poll originated in 1936. They did make the Bottom Ten.

Bowl prestige wise, there is no way we go to a “better” bowl than THEM.

Cole Sullivan: I think the Birmingham Bowl is our best bet. We could end up with the Music City Bowl, but Kentucky feels destined for it. I think we could knock Tennessee out of something like the Cotton Bowl and into something like the Citrus Bowl. I don’t see them dropping too much, though. If we don’t end up in the Birmingham Bowl, the Las Vegas Bowl or the Gasparilla Bowl would be my next guesses.

Andrew VU ‘04: You know what the Chuggers do with their bottoms, no matter the number, nor the positioning on SportsCenter. They drink with them. They drink with their butts.

Question from Nova_Dore:

Which is the bigger choke. Being the number one seed and losing to the Luck of the Irish in the super Regionals or claiming a shot at the football playoff only to go down to a bunch of Penises? And why do both make me smile?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: The baseball choke, while much worse than the football choke (because Tennessee actually was the best team and didn’t even make it to Omaha), is less of a choke because fans of THEM only care about baseball when they are good. Whereas they put up with the entire eras of Derek Dooley, Butch Jones, and Jeremy Pruitt just to watch Heupel shit the bed against South Carolina.

Doreontheplains: Baseball has a lot more variability than football, typically. That choke is less bad, even if they were pretty clearly the best team, to me. Losing to SC would have been bad, but they got ripped limb from limb and beaten to death with their own leg.

Just smile? I was dancing in the streets last Saturday night.

Cole Sullivan: blah

Andrew VU ‘04: The answer to your question is “Yes.”

...and they make you smile because you are a good person (kisses Nova-Dore on the forehead).

Questions from jeturn & WestEndMayhem:

Can you explain the referees actions in the last 5 seconds of the game? Please use 0.5 second increments, show your work and include a list of all errors. For extra credit, has this crew worked any other Vanderbilt games this year?


Another question, feel free to ignore. The refs stopping the clock for no damn reason to gift Florida a free final play still irks me. Should there be any follow-up from the coaching staff regarding that?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: The explanation I heard from the SEC office is “Vandy is not supposed to beat Florida so fuck ‘em” and I honestly think this is the most plausible explanation.

Doreontheplains: The SEC decided to hire the replacement NFL refs from a few years back. That explains all of it, especially the stopped clock because the player did slide out of bounds.

Cole Sullivan: What new logo?

Andrew VU ‘04: Here’s what I said in the moment:

...and then in the celebration thread:

You mean the first or second time the clock hit zero?

Fuuuuuuuuuck those refs on the last drive and no, even winning doesn’t keep me from bringing that back up.

Yeah, I’m still pissed at that one. As Vanderbilt sports fans, we’re used to the fix being in, but that fix normally looks like Earl Bennet (not) dancing, 13 Empty-SU players on the field to block a FG, or, you know, them not ever calling PI on obvious muggings.

This one? This one was a “JEFF GREEN TRAVELED!!!” level fix. That we won is the only reason it won’t be remembered that way. Well, again, fuck that. I’m keeping it alive. That was not just the “thumb on the scale” referee style, that was every ref putting their whole body weight, plus the weight of every Jorts fan on a Walmart riding shopping cart on the damned scale. That was Stalin-style corruption mixed with a Gerrymander job so brutal that one side can win 70% of the vote and not hold the state house. No, that was “Putin re-elected with 98% of the vote” style refereeing. Whatever email the Goldfather receives in his eternal paradise will not be sufficient.

Let me put it this way... if the Chuggers lost in that manner (instead of being pounded into a jelly by the Game Penises) this past week, those mustard-throwing, mullet-luging, ass-drinkers would have burned Columbia to the damned ground. If that had happed to the Gumps in Auburn, there would be no remaining non-poisoned trees in the state of Ramajama. And so on.

So yeah, I’m pissed.

Question from 92Drummer:

What did SC do that we need to?

QB choices - Assuming we have to choose, I believe this will reveal whether or not our coaches are worthy or not. If Swan can go but Wright gets the nod then I will say that our coaches are just coaching what come to them instead of having a vision and then executing it. Thoughts?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: South Carolina got up early and that gave them confidence that they could compete with Tennessee, and they caught a Tennessee team that wasn’t particularly interested in playing defense, as evidenced by letting Spencer Rattler hang a 60-burger on them. Or, in other words, likely karma from running up the score on Missouri.

It really couldn’t have happened to a nicer group of people, now that I think about it.

Doreontheplains: I need to answer these in reverse order. Mike Wright has been very good in the last few games. If you start Swann and the offense does not go right down and score, fans (and probably some players) will be looking towards Wright. Whether that is fair or not is a bit immaterial. Swann may come out and light up Tennessee’s defense. He is more than capable, especially if they play like they did against South Carolina, of taking that defense apart with his arm and legs.

To that point, there are things SC did that Vanderbilt can replicate. Wright can make a lot of the throws that Rattler did because WRs were running wide open. Keep Sheppard wide and have Skinner and Carter alternate post routes with work by Schoenwald and Bresnahan up the seams. Those will pair well with read option looks that allow Wright and Davis to attack the edges where the DBs will be put in trouble worry that Wright might pull it on an RPO.

The Vanderbilt pass rush struggled against Florida, and they brought 5 and 6 rushers a lot. I may actually prefer to see more 4- or 5-man rushes and give the inconsistent Milton trouble finding openings. And keep a safety deep at all times.

Cole Sullivan: Tennessee’s defense is atrocious, especially against the pass. They allow as many yards as we do through the air. With that said, while I love love love Mike, I think Swann may be our guy this weekend. This is especially true if we can make it seem like Mike will be our guy and Tennessee ends up planning for a completely different game. This only works if Swann is ready to play, and I dunno if he will be ready the way Spencer Rattler was this past weekend. I think it will help that the Tennessee defense has been trending down instead of up, and they may just be running out of steam altogether, but we can’t count on that. We’ll need to win through the air either way, so I think Swann will get the start if he is ready.

On offense, Tennessee is fantastic on both sides of the ball but will be without their starting quarterback. I don’t know enough about Milton to give a great verdict, but it will definitely be an easier game without Hooker. We will have the same difficulties with our slow secondary, but it doesn’t matter if Milton can’t make the throws necessary to take advantage. Tennessee may focus on the ground game in that case, which we’ve proven the past two weeks we can handle well enough.

Andrew VU ‘04: Obligatory “they scored many points, and gave up fewer points” response. Beyond that, the Rattler-snake finally lashed out and bit a whole bunch of orange. Beyond that, Hendon Hooker shredded his Tendons Hooker (see above for explanation). All that aside, I’m with Tom on this one. Get up early and ride the confidence-based adrenaline, or adrenaline-based confidence.

As for the QB debate, there really can’t be one at this point in the season. Ride the hot hand. Keep pummeling other teams with the 1-2 punch option game of Wright and The Hypothesis. A.J. Swann will have his time in the sun, but right now, Mike Wright is our best chance to Patton Robinette jump pass the Chuggers to death (which, Clark, if you’re reading this, seriously do that). Oh, and we really shouldn’t rush Swann back from the brain scramblies, as he’s gotten two of them this year.

How can you not root for this guy?

Questions from Jared Rifkin & SmokinJay:

Has Mike Wright earned his spot as starting QB from Aj swann or will Aj swann be the starter again next season?


Any thoughts on if there is a world where Swann can start & we can convert Wright into an athlete / WR / wildcat package guy for next week / season? Wright is so darn fast and additive to the offense when on the field, but he clearly can’t be trusted with decision making (the INT and missed TD throw yesterday were just awful examples). I’m worried he’ll hit the transfer portal if Lea doesn’t give him the starting job, but I have zero intel on his willingness to play a non-QB position.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I think Wright should start the Tennessee game, but Swann should be the starter next season — but they really need to figure out a way to get Wright on the field, because he’s the best athlete on the team.

Doreontheplains: It should be Wright Saturday. Hopefully, Swann is ready just in case Wright looks like he did against Wake Forest. You can go that way, but if you start Swann going to Wright is not a good look.

Next season, I would love to see Wright in a role as a general offensive weapon. He may not want to do that though, so I hope the staff is ready for some honest conversations that may force their hand. Losing Seals and Wright as backups would make QB depth pretty thin behind Swann. If Swann really is the future AND the team is ready for that future in terms of OL and WRs (which I they should be), the coaches need to be ready to know Wright is not interested in that role and decides to transfer.

Cole Sullivan: I think Mike could transition, but it will be a conversation with Lea. It depends on who we have at backup and if Mike thinks he can improve his arm at all. It could be great for our team, which is why Mike would do it. That’s all based on my guess that Swann gets the starting job, but Lea could choose to lean into a style of play that complements Mike and make that our identity going forward I guess? That is all a pretty far way off, and we still haven’t seen Swann since his injury. Could go either way, but probably Swann based on what I know.

Andrew VU ‘04: See previous question for my thoughts on this year. As for next year, yes, I think it should be Swann at QB1 and Wright at slot WR/ultimate Swiss Army knife weapon (see pretty much every past mail bag for more on this from me). As I’ve said time and again, that will be Lea and staff’s toughest and most needed jerb in the offseason.

...unless Wright quite literally Patton Robinette’s the Chuggers to death on Saturday. Then, that changes everything.

Question from Mauberly:

Why does a 31-18 VU lead mid-fourth quarter turn (inevitably) into a nail biter? Variant: why do leads regardless of size rarely if ever feel secure for VU football?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Because when we’re playing a team like Florida, they’re better than us, and at some point in the middle of the fourth quarter they remember this and start playing like it, and it’s merely a question of whether they complete the comeback at that point.

Doreontheplains: Everything went Florida’s way down the stretch. We made some mistakes. And they still had to get a TD to tie with less than a minute to go the full field. It was nerve-wracking because we are conditioned to Vanderbilt failures.

Cole Sullivan: It’s probably as simple as “our guys get tired faster,” “our playcalling could be better in some situations,” and “that’s the dumbest call I’ve ever seen!” We’re not a great team, but we will be. When that happens, we won’t have to worry about all that.

Andrew VU ‘04: Inductive reasoning and SEC referees putting their thumbs on the scales.

Question from Nova_Dore:

Who are your top breakout players this year and who can you not wait to see play bigger roles next year?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: The obvious, no doubt breakout player from this season is A.J. Swann. As for next season, I would love to see what Ja’Dais Richard has after he played effectively in relief of the ejected-for-bullshit-targeting-call B.J. Anderson last Saturday.

Doreontheplains: CJ Taylor has made a late, strong charge at the award, especially with Swann sidelined. Next year has a really long list that Andrew mostly covered. Langston Patterson, Jeffery Ugochukwu, and Cole Spence are other ones that could have huge years.

Cole Sullivan: blah

Andrew VU ‘04: While A.J. Swann was the breakout player of the season as recently as a month ago, C.J. Taylor’s ascendance to Man-Involved-In-Every-Play the likes we haven’t seen since Zach Cunningham was hurdling o-linemen has been the best development late in the season. When he’s not dropping balls, Will Sheppard has been a breakout player, as well. Oh, and Punt-God Matt Hayball unlocking the Platonic Ideal of Brett Upson has been quite the revelation (though, he’s a 5th year senior, con sarn it, so we’ll have to find another Aussie to play knifey spooney with). As for next year, I’ll be watching Patrick Smith and Chase Gillespie, with much more focus on the latter. I don’t think anyone will fully replace The Hypothesis, but the Dizzy Rascal has the best chance to do it. Give me more of the two European d-linemen: Darren “The Ague” Agu (England), and Yilanan “Audi Quattro” Ouattara (Deutschland). I’d also like to see more plays schemed up to get Jayden McGowan in space—they did a perfectly cromulent job of this, but I want more. More. I also want to see what Gumbo Gaskins can do at corner. The name alone...

Speaking of Brett Upson-ing:

Questions from WestEndMayhem & Force10JC:

What’s changed to explain these past two wins? (Beyond an effective firing of anti-Semite Dan Jackson)


Because I know how much AOG members like to see their peers eat crow, I want to know if I was wrong for all of the campaigning I did last year on the idea that Clark Lea was not the right coach; that we needed an experienced P5 head coach instead. Fire away! No need to be kind.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I mean, it wasn’t wrong to think Vanderbilt couldn’t have used an offensive-minded guy with head coaching experience (hi, Jamey Chadwell.) It was extremely wrong if you thought we should have hired Will Healy instead, what with him having been fired from Charlotte after a 1-7 start. No, I am not going to stop gloating about that. Yes, it’s weird that Steven Godfrey still thinks he failed at Charlotte for reasons that aren’t his fault. That guy has this weird spell over the media, but especially ones who live in Nashville, though weirdly the Tennessee fans amongst them who pushed him very hard for the Vanderbilt job (Braden Gall and Austin Stanley) were nonplussed when his name came up to replace Jeremy Pruitt. Weird, that.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah. The DBs are playing better in spite of the DBs coach stepping back.

Doreontheplains: It is easy to point at Dan Jackson being gone, but that seems odd since Lea would have seen the techniques being taught and leverages employed. As the head coach, I cannot imagine he was just letting Jackson go rogue on those things. Something has structurally and/or schematically changed with the defense. The front was able to get to Will Levis, which obviously helped. Anthony Richardson and the Florida rushing attack was buried.

I have enough bad takes to dance on, so I will refrain from doing that to anyone else.

Cole Sullivan: I think it’s really important that Clark Lea is a Vandy Man. And it’s not like he wasn’t the defensive coordinator for one of the best teams in the country. People had obviously seen something in him, and he had both the work and life experience to take a job like the one at Vanderbilt, arguably the most difficult head coaching job in all of college football. He was also stupid enough to take the job, which is a key factor in the hire. As for why we won the past few games, I think some of it is the matchups, some of it is the weather, and the rest is coaching. I have liked our playcalling a little bit more. It feels a little bit more focused, plus our guys all seem to be more consistent in execution. Just the small things really. It takes a while for things to congeal, but it’s happening now, and that’s what matters.

Andrew VU ‘04: It’s not just the firing of the Mad Tinfoil Hatter, it’s the way the team galvanized in the immediate aftermath. Beyond that, Joey Lynch and the offensive schemers changed their play-calling to fit their QB, instead of forcing their QB to fit their play-calling. This was a bit of a problem early in the year, when they were calling Mike Wright type plays for A.J. Swann. Now, they’ve committed to the run (mostly... that one pick late in the game to the Jorts was too cute by way more than half), and are playing to the strengths of both Wright and the Hypothesis. Oh, and back to the Mad Tinfoil Hatter, our DBs are no longer getting smoked over the top. I thought that was a pure Jimmies and Joes thing earlier, but now I’m convinced it was DB Coach QAnonsense. You don’t just get... faster... in a week. Something changed, scheme-wise, to give our DBs a chance to hang with speedy SEC WRs. I’m not sure what it was, but maybe someone coaches DBs and can explain it in the comments. All I know is they no longer look lost (or dead behind the eyes waiting in Dallas for JFK Jr. to return because some loon on the interwebs told them so).

Question from Dore fan in Dallas:

What are chances that a 5-7 team with a very high APR (like Vanderbilt) will make it to a bowl game in 2022?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: lol we somehow don’t have a very high APR.

Doreontheplains: APR, like anything else in major sports, has been gamed.

Cole Sullivan: Close to 0%, but not quite. Check this fanpost for more.

Andrew VU ‘04: Will link to the fanpost on this by LADores2011 (we don’t have a very high APR this year, because we’re not an academic powerhouse like Ole Miss).

Question from KnockinOnHeavensDore:

Should I dare to have hope for next week?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: You should always have hope.

Doreontheplains: Why not? We have seen a similar script in 2016. And life is much better with hope.

Cole Sullivan: There’s so many reasons to have hope! We beat Florida by more than they did. We lost to South Carolina by less than they did. In 2018 we beat Tennessee at home to earn bowl eligibility just like we did in 2016 when they were ranked! Also, Tennessee is trending down while we are trending up, their starting quarterback is hurt, and we have a lot more to play for now that there’s not way they make the playoff. Heck I have so much hope I would almost call it confidence. Anchor Down!

Andrew VU ‘04: If by next week, you mean the SEC Championship game, I guess that depends on whether you’re rooting for LSU or Georgia.