Opponent: The Elon, uh, Extremely Online Cryptocurrency Enthusiasts? Twitter Purchasers? (Formerly the Fightin’ Christians, and I have no idea why they changed it.)
Date: September 3, 2022, at 6:00 PM CT on the SEC Network+
Last year: 6-5 (5-3 CAA.) Lost 44-10 to App State in its lone game against FBS competition. Beat Humpin’ to Please 24-23 in its one game against an Anchor of Gold meme.
Tony Trisciani, who’s in his fourth year with the program and has a 12-16 record. Trisciani’s basically an FCS lifer (with five years as a high school head coach thrown in mid-career), and I’m just not going to spend much time on Elon’s head coach.
Well, Elon loses its starting quarterback (Davis Cheek) and leading rusher (Jaylan Thomas) from last season. But they found replacements, I suppose, in the transfer portal: Matthew McKay, formerly of NC State (where he started five games in 2019) and Montana State (where he went 12-3 in 2021), is the presumptive starter at quarterback, and former three-star running back Jalen Hampton transfers in from Virginia Tech. Five players caught 30 or more passes for Elon last season and three of them return, with Jackson Parham (57 catches, 820 yards, 1 TD) the team’s leading receiver last season.
Well, Elon’s defense returns nine starters, but that’s also off a unit that surrendered 26.1 ppg and 5.8 yards per play. The star on this side of the ball is senior linebacker Devonte Chandler, who led the team in tackles for loss (10.5) and sacks (3.5) last season, and finished second on the team in total tackles. Still, the listed heights and weights of the defensive front seven scream “this is an FCS team,” and if Vanderbilt is having trouble scoring points on this defense, well... let’s not even think about that.
Last year’s ETSU game is forcing me to think a little harder about this one than I normally would. Elon’s ranked 25th in Athlon’s preseason FCS top 25, so this isn’t a terrible team — it’s still an FCS team, though. If Vanderbilt is losing to them, uh, this is going to be another long season. If Vanderbilt is struggling to beat them, it’s still going to be a long season. We probably already knew that. I don’t want to spend a ton of time thinking about the difference between 1-11 and 0-12. Suffice to say, though, there’s every reason to think that Vanderbilt should start the season 2-0. We’ll get into “teams that Vanderbilt probably shouldn’t beat” later this week. That will then run through the rest of the schedule.