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Saturday Tailgate: Hawaii

The new season brings... optimism? Maybe?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 18 Stanford at Vanderbilt Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Optional Musical Accompaniment

I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes, this isn’t fun. Writing about Vanderbilt sports can be a lot, and it’s not because I don’t generally like it, or because writing at Anchor of Gold gives me a pretext to watch every Vanderbilt game even when my wife doesn’t want to, but some seasons are just a drag. The 2018-19 basketball season immediately springs to mind here; so, too, does the 2019 football season. (Thankfully, the baseball team won a College World Series in between.)

Last year a new coach brought new optimism, optimism that came crashing down to reality in the season opener, but hope came back a week later when the team won for the first time in nearly two years. The optimism that came with the Clark Lea hire — and, I realize, a lot of people weren’t optimistic about it at the time, or that optimism quickly went away after he lost to East Tennessee State — hasn’t really gone away for me, and it weirdly had something to do with what I saw on the field last year. No, the team wasn’t very good, but I thought about things like how the team always seemed to go into two-minute drills with all of their timeouts in their pocket, something that happened basically never in the Derek Mason era. Toward the end of the season, we started to see Clark Lea go for it on fourth down a hell of a lot — again, the kind of thing that Derek Mason never caught onto. Punting away possessions on the other team’s 45 just always feels very dumb; in a lot of ways, Derek Mason never seemed to make the jump from defensive coordinator to head coach.

What’s more, recruiting felt more organized, too. Lea lost a few players to decommitments — and they simply moved on to new prospects, some of them actually rated higher than the players who had jumped ship. In November 2021, it didn’t feel like the program was in a good place; I don’t feel that way now. On the heels of a 2-10 season, Lea’s first recruiting class was ranked 32nd in the 247 Sports composite — which, sure, was last in the SEC, but it was somehow Vanderbilt’s best recruiting class since 2013, when Vanderbilt was fresh off a 9-4 season.

There are reasons to feel hopeful about all of this, I guess, even if we may not see them on the field this season. But that’s probably where we’re going to look for reasons to be hopeful. I would say there’s nowhere to go but up, but we all know as Vanderbilt fans that it is always possible for things to get worse. We’re somehow favored by 9.5 points tonight, and damnit, let’s make the most of that.

Pregame Reading

Sports on TV (non-college football edition)

All times Central. Your college football open thread is coming later.

  • 12:00 PM: PGA Tour: TOUR Championship, Third Round (Golf Channel)
  • 1:30 PM: PGA Tour: TOUR Championship, Third Round (NBC)
  • 2:00 PM: NFL Preseason: Jaguars at Falcons (NFL Network)
  • 3:00 PM: MLB: Rays at Red Sox or Angels at Blue Jays (MLB Network)
  • 5:00 PM: NFL Preseason: Rams at Bengals (NFL Network)
  • 6:00 PM: MLB: Giants at Twins or Braves at Cardinals (FOX)
  • 8:00 PM: NFL Preseason: Vikings at Broncos (NFL Network)
  • 9:00 PM: MLB: Guardians at Mariners (FS1)


MLB: Dodgers 10, Marlins 6 ... Reds 7, Nationals 3 ... Phillies 7, Pirates 4 ... Angels 12, Blue Jays 0 ... Mets 7, Rockies 6 ... Red Sox 9, Rays 8 ... Rangers 7, Tigers 6 ... Diamondbacks 7, White Sox 2 ... Orioles 2, Astros 0 ... Cubs 4, Brewers 3 ... Padres 13, Royals 5 ... Twins 9, Giants 0 ... Braves 11, Cardinals 4 ... Yankees 3, A’s 2 ... Mariners 3, Guardians 2.