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End of Season Football Mail Bag: Answers to your Questions

You ask, we answer.

Florida v Vanderbilt Photo by Carly Mackler/Getty Images

Question from ask_thedoctor:

1. By nearly every metric, this team could be considered a success compared to where we thought we could be at the end of the year, yet there still remain some lingering issues given the last game (that I mercifully was unable to watch after the yanked FG attempt). What do you think is the barometer of success next year?

2. What was our best uni combo this year, and why?

3. A 5-7 Vandy and a 5-7 Texas A&M meet in the Almost Had ‘Em Bowl. What’s the final score and why?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I think a reasonable bar for next season is making a bowl game. At least three of the non-conference games should be winnable (jury’s out on Wake Forest with Sam Hartman back, though they disappointed this season), and in SEC play, Kentucky is at home and breaking in a new quarterback, Missouri is at home, and Auburn will have a new coach and is coming to Nashville.

Texas A&M beats us if the game is played right now, though at earlier points in the season I’d have probably taken us.

Cole Sullivan: 1) I think we need to make a bowl game. For me it’s that simple. I think we will most likely go 3-1 or 4-0 out-of-conference and there is no reason we shouldn’t be able to win 2 conference games again. Auburn is on the schedule, so are Mizzou and Kentucky, and there’s always a chance we put together an entire game against Ole Miss instead of just a good couple of quarters. I don’t think we even need to win the bowl game to be successful, although if we get in at 6-6 then I would expect us to play in something like the Birmingham Bowl against a team maybe we hopefully would beat. Getting past the 6-6 plateau of success is going to be much more difficult than getting to that 6-6 plateau simply because we play a couple of really hard games every year no matter what, so for now I think a baby step is fine. 2) My favorite uniform is the ones we wore when we won. I dunno, I’m not a big uni guy. 3) We beat Texas A&M maybe 24-17 or something? Their rushing defense was the worst in the SEC, which plays to our strengths, they only get about as many yards through the air as Kentucky and Florida, who we beat, and in general they are an unoriginal team. A common criticism against Texas A&M that I see is that they don’t adjust at all. I think Lea would be able to take advantage of that. Maybe the score would be higher or lower, but it would still be close either way. Wherever we played, there would be way more of them than there would be of us.

Andrew VU ‘04: I agree that even optimistic takes on the year did not include 5 wins. Still, with Wright and The Hypothesis transferring, it has a slight hint of a “Stackhouse NIT bid” team. Not that either are at the level of an SPJ “putting the team on my back” type player loss, but collectively, the 2 headed option run monster legitimately messed with mid-tier SEC defenses. That said, I very much think A.J. Swann can have that SPJ type effect on a team if he is able to stay healthy all year.

This is just to say... I have eaten the 2 man run/pass option game which led to the 2 SEC wins over Kentucky and The Jorts. Forgive me... they were delicious; so sweet and so cold. If the hypothetical Bowl against aTm includes the disappointing portal news, we would likely lose that game, as nearly all of what our offense turned into would be gone.

The barometric pressure on next year will be around 30.11 mercury units. I have no idea how that translates to wins or losses. We’ve got a favorable schedule, but will have to get the running game in order, and A.J. Swann will have to take the next step in his development (he can be a Cutler level pro prospect if he puts the work in) for any of it to matter. Let’s say it’s bowl or bust, as I like both of those things.

PatrickSawyer: Outside of a few pie-in-the-sky intentionally overly optimistic 5-7 was the absolute best case scenario people expected. Granted, most of us building a path to 5-7 included wins over South Carolina and Missouri. I feel pretty confident no prediction of 5-7 or better included losses to both of them. So, yes, this season was a success even the three 50+ point beatdowns to Top 10 teams. Next year needs to include a bowl game to be a success. There are some important losses, particularly on offense, but this season ended up having some legitimate chances to score 2 or 3 more wins than they did. Clark Lea cannot afford even the appearance of taking a step backward.

The gold helmets, black jerseys, and gold pants is such a classic look. For home looks, it is second onl to the inverse black-gold-black, but Vanderbilt does not appear to have gold jerseys in the rotation since they did not appear this season. The all-whites are so clean, but they have enough of the black and gold in trim and accents to still have some Vanderbilt flair.

If it was the full rosters as the season ended, I think Vanderbilt probably wins that game. However, the portal and draft losses probably leave the team filling too many holes in just 15 practices. Granted, I doubt most of the guys declaring for the draft would skip a bowl, but the transfer guys would probably be out looking for their next stop. Full rosters, I will go 27-24 Dores.

Question from Force10JC:

How about a simple, way too early, prediction for next season?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: 6-6 with wins over Hawaii, Alabama A&M, at UNLV, Kentucky, Missourah, and Auburn. That last one is up for debate (I think they’ll get six wins, but I’m not positive where the sixth will come from.)

Cole Sullivan: We win 3 or 4 to start the season depending on how many Wake Forest players return next year. Then, just thinking about this year, peeking at depth charts, and listening to “rat poison” around the cfb-sphere I think we oughta beat Kentucky, Mizzou, and Auburn, split Florida and South Carolina, lose against Georgia and Ole Miss, and wallop the mustard out of Tennessee. I of course think we can go undefeated next season but it’s ‘more likely’ that we win 6 or 7 not counting the bowl game.

Andrew VU ‘04: FAR TOO EARLY ORACLE OF HETPHI ACTIVATED. 6 wins or Clark Lea will be cursed to push a boulder up a hill until an eagle eats part of his liver ad infinitum.

PatrickSawyer: The regular season record looks like 6-6 with wins over Hawaii, Alabama A&M, UNLV, Kentucky, Missouri, and one of Wake Forest or South Carolina. As much as I am disgusted by Auburn hiring Freeze, he is one of the few coaches I think can turn that team around quickly just by offensive scheme and athletes alone.

Question from WestEndMayhem:

Does anyone still want to see changes (at any level) of the coaching staff?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Aside from the obvious one, I think Vanderbilt can do better than Nick Howell as defensive coordinator — though I also see the argument against having three defensive coordinators in three years.

Cole Sullivan: Dan Jackson should be gone for being antisemitic, but also we got better after he “stepped back.” Other than that, I don’t know if we necessarily need a new OC but we need a new offensive analyst or a tweak in mindset or something.

Andrew VU ‘04: I’d like to see Clark Lea get a really obvious toupee and never once mention it.

PatrickSawyer: Probably just Jackson being shot out of a cannon into the Cumberland. I’m not keyed in enough to know what up-and-coming creative OCs we could pluck from the ranks to replace Lynch, who I think was very good at times but also horrible at others. Hopefully, designing and installing just one offense that Swann and Seals can both execute, instead of two pretty distinct ones for Swann/Seals and Wright this previous offseason, will provide a more stable platform. I think Lea probably has too much of an imprint on the defense for Howell to be a big problem on his own.

Question(s) from OldGold&Black & Your Uncle Mike:

Is anyone surprised that the [former Clanga AD currently with the War Tigers] poached Hugh Freeze, a coach who DMed a sexual assault survivor who was suing his school, from the AD that oversaw (lacked) oversight of Art Briles’ football program at Baylor and hired Freeze a year and some change after it was revealed that he a) lied to NCAA investigators, b) lied to institutional powers; c) lied to players; d) had 33 wins vacated; e) used his UNIVERSITY PHONE to call escort services.

When thinking about someone to lead impressionable young 17-23 year old men as student athletes (have we retired this term yet?) in 2023, who could possibly see anything problematic with such a hire?

I’m all about redepmtion [sic] and forgiveness. I’m a proponent of grace. But, at the same time some of that forgiveness and redemption should be from injured parties and/individuals with credibility. When the “good ole” boy system says, you’ve changed, and they surround you with under individuals with “select” issues, one can only go so far. To rebuild your reputation, going to the AD that was fired for lack of institutional support does not garner much credibility.


If it wasn’t for Leanne Tuohy and Michael Oher, would Hugh Freeze even be a CFB Head Coach?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: There was a good tweet thread from ESPN’s David Hale about Michael Vick (though he did re-up it and say most of it applies to Freeze, too) on this subject, and I think it’s informative.

Something I think about here is that Bobby Petrino, who’s in the running for the offensive coordinator job at Texas A&M, actually is what (some) people think Hugh Freeze is, both in terms of his acumen as an offensive coach (Freeze is more in the Gus Malzahn vein of a guy who has One Weird Trick that defenses will eventually figure out) and the fact that his scandal is actually kind of a nothingburger in hindsight. I mean, Bobby Petrino got caught having a consensual relationship with a staffer, which is bad and definitely gets you fired from your current employment but not “this should end your career forever” bad.

It would be different if Freeze had just left it at “committing NCAA violations, lying to recruits about the coming sanctions, and calling hookers from a university cell phone,” and it would be different if he had shown any amount of contrition for any of that. Instead, the defenses of him basically come down to “it’s been five years, shut up,” and that completely ignores him sliding into the DMs of a sexual assault victim to let her know that the guy she’s suing is actually a good dude five months ago. You might be fine arguing that we should just let the Ole Miss stuff go, but he’s still at it. And arguably is doing even worse.

And no, Hugh Freeze broke into college coaching only because Ole Miss gave him a position on their staff while they were recruiting Michael Oher.

Cole Sullivan: That was a lot to read. Hugh Freeze sounds like a jerk who shouldn’t be allowed to coach, plus have you heard about his thing with players’ ankles? Nothing wrong with it, it’s just weird. Hugh Freeze is perfect for Auburn though because Auburn is a dumpster fire and Freeze is a trashy guy. Keeps the fire burning you know?

Andrew VU ‘04: Not surprised. There is a vein of Evangelical Christianity that exists only to demonize the behavior of their out groups and justify the horrid behavior of those they deem to be a part of their tribe. Actually, it’s more the entire vascular system. Mix that with the win-at-all-costs ethical nightmare of high level collegiate athletics, and the fact that many of the people making such decisions are just the Boss Hoggs in their relative good ‘ol boy network, and none of it is surprising. It’s pretty hilarious that on top of all of this blatant hypocrisy, it’s also an idiotic hire purely from a football perspective.

It’s as if the college football collective determined Art Briles would be their lone blood sacrifice, and such a sacrifice would cleanse them of all their other horrific sins. It’s bullshit. You knew that already, of course. I mean, you pretty much nailed it in the framing of your questions, especially in your framing of the difference of true redemption and whatever nonsense this is.

PatrickSawyer: I was sure Auburn would not stoop to this level. Yes, boosters paid Cam Newton. Yes, they became a running joke for taking on players kicked off other teams, but all of those players were part of nonviolent offenses, and nothing nearly to the extremes of what Freeze has done, specifically the sexual assault victim DMing in June of THIS YEAR. Auburn generally takes the FAMILY thing very seriously. Yes, we all know it sounds silly, but it generally is a very tightly knit community at Auburn. Let’s just say the vast majority of the family is mad at the rich elders who brought this scumbag in to the family business.

Question from JMLongVU98:

I just read that Colorado dismissed Karl Dorrell in October and is courting Deion. My question is did Dorrell Hit the over or under for how long he’d have that job? I’m saying over but I don’t set the lines.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: He hit the under, because while he was obviously a terrible hire from the jump, even terrible hires usually get three years. Getting fired before that usually means you either had some off-field scandal or you’re abjectly terrible, even compared to what we would have expected from Karl Dorrell. (Though Andrew raises a good point.)

Cole Sullivan: Depends when the line was set. His first season was pretty good and his second season was fine. He normally jumps around more just strolling through his Wikipedia page. Probably hit the over if we’re talking start of his tenure at Colorado to now, but under if we’re talking start of this season to now.

Andrew VU ‘04: Since you asked this, Coach Prime took the Beefalos jerb. Dorrell hit the over the second he was hired, as there was no football based reason for him to ever be given a head coaching position.

PatrickSawyer: Karl Dorrell having a job above position coach is him playing above his level, so I will say over because I assume the line was set when Derek Mason realized he sucked too much to retain after one season.

Question from VeroBeachman:

The person who is the primary writer about VU football for the uTenessean [sic...] thinks Lynch is a great OC because VU’s offense is no longer the very worst in college football—now it is only half as bad as last season. ut’s D looked top 5 quality against Lynch after having their nose rubbed in the ground by Scar. Imo, ut’s D did not improve that much over the course of 1 lousy week. They improved that much because they read Lynch’s play calling as if was them who was telling Wright what plays to run. Maybe The Bald One is wise enough to seek out a real OC in the next few weeks. An OC that isn’t as predictable as the ‘rotation of the planets’ and who can be a positive on the recruiting trail, too.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I don’t know, man, if I’m firing a coordinator this offseason it’s the guy whose unit ranked 125th of 131 FBS teams, and that’s not Lynch.

Cole Sullivan: Like I said above, I don’t know if a whole new OC is the answer, but we definitely need to change something about our offense. There’s probably a better OC out there, but if we aren’t confident then we should ride with Lynch.

Andrew VU ‘04: Oh man, I did not expect torchforks this early, but okay. While we would all have preferred Derek Mason head to Utah and Andy Ludwig stay put, I’m not sure an OC change does all that much for this team. If you have the opportunity to hire a young stud coordinator who wants to stay with the program a while, go for it. Short of that, the Chuggers just had us on a personnel level. It was gross, but I’m not sure some X and O based changes does anything to affect the outcome of that game.

PatrickSawyer: The game plan for Tennesse was horrible. They were clearly the superior team, but Lynch did very little to give the offense any chance at success in that game. The good news is he did guide this team to 27 points against South Carolina, 24 at Kentucky, and 31 against Florida. Which is what makes me wonder if the Lynch/Lea dynamic might not be similar to Ludwig/Mason where the defensive-minded HC wants a conservative plan against opponents that are clearly superior like Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. Wright also looked more timid down the stretch, and I am not sure if that was an attempt to preserve his own health or was coached into him when Swann was not available to replace him.

Question from Dinard’oh:

I see some strong, young players on this team that will improve their unit headed into next year. I’m worried about offensive skill positions though. Who do you see running the ball/catching the ball next year that I should be excited about?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Patrick Smith’s going to be running the ball almost by default, and hopefully will be better than he was this year. If he’s not, I am intrigued by incoming freshmen Sedrick Alexander and AJ Newberry.

As for catching the ball, Will Sheppard is returning so you can start there. I also see Quincy “The Principal” Skinner and Jayden McGowan improving.

Cole Sullivan: Running? I dunno man probably somebody new. Receiving? I think we’ll have a few of the same guys. So far it seems like we may retain a decent amount of the talent we have now. AJ seems like the guy next year so a lot of it will come down to him getting healthy and improving more than anything else.

Andrew VU ‘04: They should be pretty much set at WR with Shep, McGowan, and Skinner (SKINNER!!!), but unless Chase Gillespie, an incoming transfer to be named later, or a true freshman who comes in game ready is able to fully assume The Hypothesis’s role—which is really unlikely—our running game should be noticeably worse next year. Come on, much hated Transfer Stargate... work in our favor this time...

PatrickSawyer: Catching the ball is still most of the same faces except for the TEs. Cole Spence is supposed to be a good option there having redshirted this year thanks to the depth. Justin Ball might be a serviceable second TE, but it will certainly not be the one-two punch of Bresnahan and Schoenwald even if it was not utilized fully in my opinion. All the WRs who contributed significantly are back.

If Patrick Smith’s vision can improve just a little, I can see him being a good back who is probably more explosive but far less consistent than Davis. We did not get to see enough of Gillespie to get a good idea there. AJ Newberry has good size at 6’0 and 200 lbs as an incoming freshman, and he looks like he has good speed in the highlights. Not as familiar with the higher rated Sedrick Alexander.

Question from SmokinJay:

How much should I read into Lea’s halftime justification for leaving Wright in the game that he “needs to learn how to play through these types of situations” … not to play Monday morning quarterback, but I wanted to see Swann on the 3rd drive.

Secondly, we’ve all seen a lot of bad Vandy performances over the years… this one felt awful, but is that just because it was the most recent? A close game felt like a great stepping stone for the program, instead we got shoved in the locker, peed our pants, and lost our pocket protector. Does this have lingering recruiting implications?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Recruits weirdly don’t care as much as you would think about on-field results, and anyway, how often were we winning recruiting battles against Tennessee before.

My read on the Tennessee game is that Clark Lea really didn’t want to play Swann in that game unless he absolutely had to, not because he thought Wright gave the team the best chance of winning but because he didn’t think it was worth risking Swann picking up another injury in a game the team was probably going to lose either way.

Cole Sullivan: We weren’t going to win that game in the second half no matter what we did. I am fine with how things went, especially if AJ is still roughed up. This performance was indeed awful, but Tennessee mostly scored on big plays. That’s something we should be able to limit with a little bit more talent and size in the defense. I do think this game has recruiting implications, because I had never seen that many recruits on the sideline of a Vandy game (and I have met many a recruit on the sideline of a Vandy game) but I think in the long-term Coach Lea will be able to point at the season record and say “We are building something here” even if there’s a group of recruits who decide against Vanderbilt in the short term because we lost big.

Andrew VU ‘04: I wouldn’t read too much into it. If I had to guess, Swann’s multiple concussions played a significant part in that decision. Better to give him an extended offseason than to risk any more brain scramblies, especially in a game that was already over.

PatrickSawyer: I have already seen the answer to this question, so that feels unfair. I did want to see Swann sooner. Playing him at all was weird if they were worried about the concussion history enough to make it a consideration.

Recruiting does not appear to have taken a hit though.

Question from JesseCuster44:

Did we want to win vs UT? Because looking at the playcalling [sic] and effort, the answer was no.

What was going through the OC’s head when he dialed up 4 bland runs to gain 7 yards after a massive KO return to begin 2H?

Why wait until you’re down 35 to bring in a QB who can throw the ball?

How was Sheppards catch in 3Q ruled incomplete when no replay shown on TV showed the ball hitting the ground?

Am I justified in being this angry/disgusted?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I mean, yeah, because Tennessee’s defense had gotten lit up by Spencer Rattler the previous week, so to go out and make their defense look like Georgia’s was bad. It would have been different if we had lost 56-28 or something like that, which isn’t good but is about what you expect to happen against that offense.

Cole Sullivan: I got a good laugh out of the first question. Obviously we wanted to win. Tennessee was not a good matchup for us this year: they had a quarterback known for throwing bombs while we have a defense known for not stopping big plays. They had a great run defense while we didn’t have the arm talent (and/or the weather) to feel comfortable getting the ball in the air. They had one of the best teams in the country while we lost to Missouri. And not that the outcome would have been different, but they got a favorable call here and there. You’re justified in being angry, but I was there the full four rainy quarters and after a while I just laughed. We had a good season, all things considered, but we’re still Vanderbilt and what a hilariously Vanderbilt way to end the year.

Andrew VU ‘04: Yes, they wanted to win. Doing so would have gotten them to a bowl. They were beaten by an athletically superior team. Had the Chuggers not hilariously lost to the Game Penises, we all would have predicted a 30+ point beatdown.

PatrickSawyer: Tennessee was neither remotely as bad as South Carolina made them look because that was apparently heavily influenced by locke room issues, which I warned about in my predictions for the game. On the flip side, we did a lot of things to make their defense’s life easier, like the 4-run sequence you mentioned.

I hope you have calmed down with time to reflect on the full season instead of one game, no matter how awful it was.

Question from VU1970:

Will we ever see Clark Lea in an Aflac commercial? And if I may have a follow-up, Mr. President, will you please tell your readers that the outcome of that last game had little or nothing to do with play calling, clock management, “schemes,” or who started at QB?

And as for the Chuggers, remember what Big Joe Turner said: “It may be your time now, but it’ll be mine some sweet day.”

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Yeah, as I said above, that stuff was maybe the difference between losing 56-28 and 56-0.

Cole Sullivan: I predicted us to win because I’m an undying homer whose motto is “Fun always wins” but c’mon folks, there’s almost nothing we could have done to win that game. It will be our time one day, and when it does it will be oh so sweet as we (and the rest of the country) just sit back and laugh at Tennessee.

Andrew VU ‘04: My previous answers all would back up your assertions regarding what the loss to the Chuggers did not have to do with, so... sure. Not sure when I was elected president. Also, of what, exactly?

Finally, I suppose Clark Lea could wear a goose costume at some point, but I’ll be happy if he just never appears in a Rogers Dabbs Hummer commercial.

PatrickSawyer: Let’s slow down. Clark Lea has neither the success of Saban as a coach or Coach Prime as a player and personality.

The Chuggers just went through almost two decades of it not being their time. It is so easy for them to forget somehow. We will see how they do without Hendon Hooker at QB.

Question from 79Commode Dore:

Your intro pretty much nailed it. But the loss to the Chuggers was, I believe, our worst looking performance of the season. I was worried about our pass defense, and our run defense totally collapsed. Looked like high school.

Sooo, given that regressive performance, should we feel worse about next season or do we just delete it from the hard drive and pretend it didn’t happen and think that Tom’s possible 6-0 start next year is a realistic thing?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: That game shouldn’t influence your views of next season. For one thing, the quarterback running the offense for most of the game will not be on the team next season; but yes, we just delete that and pretend it didn’t happen and move on. Always remember that even James Franklin’s teams would sometimes get drilled by a legitimate Top 5 team.

Cole Sullivan: I think we could start 6-0, but more likely it will be 5-1. There isn’t much to takeaway from the last game. Let’s just go 1-0 every week next year, and soon enough we’ll be 6-0, ranked, and bowl bound regardless of what happens after that.

Andrew VU ‘04: I mean, by that logic, our wins over Kentucky and The Jorts should have us as excited as the loss to the Chuggers has us despondent. They have to cancel each other out. I feel... another 5-6 win season coming. As long as we get our RB room figured out (see last question), I mean.

That said, yeah, those first 6 games are completely winnable. Wake’s losing their NFL quality QB, Kentucky should be worse than they were this year (also losing a QB to the NFL), and though I refuse to recognize them, Game 6 is about a coin flip. Will the 2023 versions of the Jorts and War Tigers match their 2022 versions? If so... there is real opportunity for a Brigadoon style season. We damn well better find a Hypothesis replacement in the coming months, lest we waste this opportunity.

PatrickSawyer: I still have not watched the game back, but I have a hunch some things the defense did to try and take away Tennessee’s passing attack left some weaknesses in the run game. The players on defense also were in position, or nearly so, to make plays on most of the big plays. One guy needed to make a play and failed to do so. Frustrating but probably true. We got destroyed by the Top 10 teams we played and had big losses to a then-Top 10 Ole Miss and Wake Forest when Mike Wright was giving the ball away like candy. The other two losses were by 3 and 11. Vanderbilt still has tiny margins to prevent good teams from breaking the game open, but there are a lot more positives than negatives in Year 2 of Clark Lea.

I can see 6-0 to start. It is feasible. I would not predict it, but I would not be surprised either.

Question from BarnDore1950:

Since 2020 doesn’t count, what are the chances we have multiple six year players next year?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Decent, although we’ve already seen several candidates for that either hop into the transfer portal (Elijah McAllister and Malik Langham) or retire from football (Gavin Schoenwald.) We might have some guys elect to return to Vanderbilt, or we might even get one out of the portal, but I wouldn’t bet on it being that many.

Cole Sullivan: Why, unless you have an incredible opportunity somewhere else, would you stop playing college football given the chance at another year? I mean I guess camp and training and everything sucks, but if you’ve been with this team for five years, things are only on their way up. Probably pretty high, although maybe that’s just the romantic in me talking.

Andrew VU ‘04: Hmm... I feel like 2020 counted. Maybe like 100x as much as a normal year of misery. Quite possibly the only good things to come out of 2020 were Chromeo’s excellent recorded-during-lockdown album Quarantine Cassanova and The Best American Short Stories 2020 collection being the best of that series since, like, 2003? Wait, those stories would have all been written before 2020 so as to be published in literary magazines/journals, then collected for the series. So yeah, it has been determined: Fuck that year.

Oh... you mean the feetball season. Same answer.

PatrickSawyer: I lost count of the tracker. I don’t think we have any confirmed. Hayball and Mahoney are using the extra COVID eligbility, but neither of them used a traditional redshirt at any point.

Question from Parlagi:

Brett McMurphy confirmed 5-6 New Mexico St. is doing everything they can to make a bowl game. They tried to get an FBS game this weekend, but they may have to settle for Valparaiso.

I know I’m an idiot, but I am really, really irritated at Vanderbilt for not stepping up as well. The team can play 13 games due to the Hawaii trip. Anyway, my question is: Is my irritation justified, particularly given the postseason implications for both teams?

(Also: There are too many P5 vs. P5 bowls nowadays. Please convert three to P5 vs. G5. I am not a crackpot.)

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I’m sure that New Mexico State wanted an automatic win for their extra game instead of scheduling a Vanderbilt team that might beat them. In other words, they scheduled Valparaiso because that was the caliber of team they wanted to schedule.

And yes, we do need more P5 vs. G5 bowls. We actually need a lot fewer conference/bowl tie-ins than we currently have. It’s honestly weird that the SEC insists on sending its teams to the same seven bowls year after year, with minimal change, and not letting a team decide they want to go play in the Fenway Bowl or the Guaranteed Rate Bowl or whatever. Keep it interesting for fans instead of just sending them to Orlando.

Cole Sullivan: I tried y’all. I can’t find the article right now, but I laid out who we could play and why pretty explicitly. Woulda coulda shoulda on our part.

As for bowl games, why aren’t CCU-ECU in the Myrtle Beach Bowl instead of the Birmingham Bowl? I know I’m waving my fist at the clouds over here, but I like bowl games and think it’s cool when there are a lot of them with fun matchups. Instead, half of all bowl games are played in Orlando. Oh well.

Andrew VU ‘04: Parlagi, you have once again gotten to the crux of my disappointment with the New Bald Coach despite the team overachieving at the end of this season. Since you wrote this, NMSU did schedule that extra game and are currently in a bowl game. Why the hell did we not do this, what with the Hawaii loophole??? (Screams into pillow.)

PatrickSawyer: Bluntly, I think Clark Lea did not want to delay any of the end of season turnover. Nor did he want to play a game shorthanded. A bowl game earned by beating THEM and getting to 6-6 would probably have kept most of the roster together for the bowl. A pity bowl probably does not do the same. Also, I get the feeling that Lea is not after the superficial “WE GOT TO A BOWL!” when it was not earned the conventional way. The extra practices would have been useful though.

Special Bonus Post-Transfer Portal Question from Andrew VU ‘04:

Now that the two man monster option attack of Mr. Wright and The Hypothesis have entered the portal, how does that impact how you feel about next year’s team’s bowl chances?

Further, if you made the rules regarding transfers, what would be your ideal transfer rules system? Beyond just nuking the Stargate Portal, I mean.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: It doesn’t. I had figured Wright would not be the starter next year either way, and while Davis did good things for the team this year, he’s replaceable.

On its face, the transfer rule is fine. What you’re not supposed to say out loud is that immediate eligibility for transfers, combined with removal of the 25-man initial counter limit, has affected the demand side for transfers more than the supply side. And where it has affected the supply side, I suspect it’s because a lot of coaches have gotten more aggressive about running players off knowing that they can be replaced by a transfer who’s immediately eligible. Not everybody’s entering the portal by choice, in short, unless you honestly believed that everybody on a P5 team’s bench is not fine with this situation and wants to transfer to a G5 school.

So, ideally, running players off would sting, but it’s never been the NCAA’s M.O. to make running players off sting. But it’s going to start when the rule change comes in stating that if you take a transfer, you’re on the hook for his scholarship until he graduates, regardless of whether he’s still playing for your team or not — meaning, basically, if you run off a guy who already transferred once, he’s going to count against your 85-man limit for a few years. That’s going to add up.

Cole Sullivan: I think you should be able to transfer as much as you want without sitting out. Life is short and if someone thinks they can make the most of it somewhere else, let them.

Andrew VU ‘04: Excellent question. My perfect transfer policy would be a mix between the past policy and current policy.

First, students who have not yet graduated will have to sit out a year when they transfer, but there will be no further restrictions on where you can transfer to (no getting blocked from certain schools). Beyond that, there would be more enforceable “academic progress” rules during the sit-out year, which would help more athletes actually be on track to graduate from college. Far too many kids are jumping from school to school to school without a snowball’s chance in hell of actually making any academic progress. It’s a sham, and we should at least try to fix it. The “sit-out” year would not affect their remaining years of eligibility.

Students who have graduated may transfer anywhere (and may choose to either attempt a graduate degree, or take a full load—15 credits per term—of undergraduate classes). This potentially limits the impulse to create/continue bullshit grad programs at football factories. Beyond that, this removes the implied “but you don’t have a graduate program in my field/student was not accepted into the graduate program” nonsense that punishes academic powerhouses and rewards all these places with Sports Pedagogy and/or Recreation and Leisure Studies programs. The “full load caveat” serves three purposes here: 1) It removes the “Joe Burrowing” of taking one online class all year and being a full-time feetball player, 2) Many football players are forced into bullshit majors by their football factory coach, and would finally get the chance to study what they want without the classes having to be too advanced for them (just try jumping straight to graduate level classes without having taken any undergrad level classes in a similar major) to learn effectively, and 3) It’s endlessly fun to say “full load caveat.”

As for losing Wright and Davis, it will hurt. It might hurt a lot. If we can’t approximate this year’s running game, even with a fully healthy A.J. Swann all year, I don’t think we make a bowl. Might want to, you know... start looking for a RB transfer...

PatrickSawyer: I expected Davis to be gone. I thought he would test the NFL draft though then piddle around on NFL practice squads. By transferring, I thin he has 0 shot at ever making an NFL roster based purely on age and miles on the body at that position. Maybe he did not anyway though, and I am overrating his vision and the difficulty defenders had in getting a good grip or hit on him. I also expected Wright to need to change position to see the field a lot, barring more injuries for Swann. Based on the reports he chose Vanderbilt because we were one of the few P5 schools wanting him at QB, Wright chosing to leave instead of be a backup and/or change positions was completely expected and understood. So, my expectations were not altered much.

I think the transfer rules will be in a good new place with the new counter system Tom mentioned along with next offseason being the last one with a lot of extra COVID years to worry about. The only players in the offseason after that who might be moving for a final 6th year would be ones who had 2020 as their first year on campus AND took a redshirt, medical or by choice, in 2021, 2022, or 2023. The current situation is a combination of extra COVID eligibility, the newish “first one is free” transfer rule, and NIL, which will also sort itself out somewhat as businesses see less ROI from players they were basically bidding over to get to a certain school.