Finally, the season is here. (Okay, not quite, it’s still Friday afternoon. Just go along with it, you morons.)
Vanderbilt, for probably the first time ever, plays a Week Zero game with a trip to Hawaii allowing them to add an extra week to the schedule. Technically, they could have also added an extra game, but I think this season 12 games is enough. The Commodores will open their season tomorrow night at 9:30 PM CT against the homestanding Rainbow Warriors, in a temporary on-campus facility that Hawaii is currently using as its stadium thanks to Aloha Stadium being condemned a couple of years ago. And people complain about the Dud.
So, are our writers optimistic about this one? Let’s find out!
While overall, I am not bullish on Vanderbilt’s 2022 football team, the thing about this game is that I have been casually following the state of Hawaii’s football program over the offseason because they’re our first opponent, and I have come to the conclusion that Hawaii is probably going to suck this season. Like, UConn-level bad.
(gets handed a note from Pinman) What’s that you say? We needed a last-second field goal to beat that UConn team? Oh.
Anyway, I do think Vanderbilt will be a bit better this season than last, and that gives me some confidence going into this one. Some of the young players are going to play immediately, because they’re probably better than the Derek Mason holdovers. I’m not going to go too overboard with my prediction, because I have been very wrong in being optimistic about Vanderbilt football before, but I do think Vanderbilt will win somewhat comfortably on Saturday night.
The Pick: Vanderbilt 31, Hawaii 14
Andrew VU ‘04
Never a good sign when your depth chart has three QBs listed with the OR designation as the starter before a game. And no, this time, it’s not us. Give me the team that was able to name a starting QB over the team that has no clue who’s worth a damn on their own roster. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say there will be an Orji of destruction in the Rainbow Warriors backfield. Expect two sacks from ALL-SEC Alston. Ah, screw it, one of them’s going to be a strip sack we take to the house.
If we don’t win this one, get your torchforks ready, and prepare for a one win season (the horror, the horror). Hawaii in year zero should not yet be remotely ready for even our level of talent and competition. Even if our level of talent and competition is likely not ready for SEC play.
Does that mean I’m damning year two of The New Bald Coach Experience with faint praise?
You’re god damned right it does.
The Pick: Vanderbilt 34 - Hawaii 20. (Mic drop.)
First, I am going to assume Andrew was Humpin’ to Please and meant to say “All-Big South Alston*.” It does not make sense in context, but that really does not rule anything out on AoG.
Back to the game at hand, unless we go with a “3 yards and a cloud of dust” offense to be super vanilla and not give anything away, I do not see any way Hawaii consistently stops the offense. Mike Wright may be inconsistent with accuracy at times, but he will probably be faster than anyone on Hawaii’s defense as will Jayden McGowan. A healthy Ray Davis is also an all-conference performer anywhere except the SEC. I really want to see Ben BresnaHANDS be used early and often, too, to remind opposing coaches they better game plan for him which will open up plenty of other opportunities.
Defensively, the type of pass-heavy attack we expect to see from Hawaii requires chemistry. How did any receivers build sufficient chemistry with whichever QB(s) play when 2 weeks ago they supposedly still had 5 guys competing for the starting job. That type of offense really plays to Vanderbilt’s relative strength on defense in the back 7. Hawaii’s offensive line should also be one that Vanderbilt’s depleted defensive line can still beat at the point of attack.
The hype train is rolling, but I think Vanderbilt jumps out early-ish (maybe the offense sputters on the first drive or two because first game). Halftime is a comfortable spot, and the Rainbow Warriors never really threaten.
*Alston Orji was not named Preseason All-Big South either. Shhhh.
The Pick: Vanderbilt 38 - Jeff Gordon’s Pit Crew 13
I just don’t get it. As of the time of my writing this, ESPN gives us a 28% chance to win while sportsbooks expect us to win by about 9. I have seen predictions all over the board. Hawai’i by 5 in one place, Vanderbilt by 11 in another. No one actually knows anything about this game, and it’s driving me crazy because I actually do know the truth. The truth is that we’re winning big. Hawai’i is rebuilding more than just its stadium this year, while we’re onto #TeamTwo of the Leanaissance. Our football team has been there all week acclimating to the Hawai’i environment getting ready to play, but come on, what does the Mountain West environment have on the SEC? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I wake up every. single. day. thinking Vanderbilt is going to win, and this weekend we are winning big.
The Pick: Vanderbilt 34 - Hawai’i 17