Around the League: Week 7

Lots of Upsets!

We’re past the halfway mark of the season, which means that football is going to be great from here on out. Lots of upsets last weekend, here’s brief summaries of some of the action.

(#2) Georgia 16 @ (#13) LSU 36

In my weekly prediction, I did not elect to take LSU as my upset pick. I saw this game going something like 10-7 or a similarly grueling affair. It was anything but. LSU kicked Georgia’s ass. LSU got it done mostly with Clyde Edwards-Helaire (145 yds) and Nick Brosette (64 yds). Burrow continues to be... well the QB LSU needs him to be right now. 200 yards in the air and 66 on the ground. Burrow is keeping the offense alive and moving the offense with sufficient potency. This is especially encouraging against a very good UGA defense. On the other side of the ball, I don’t know what UGA’s OC is thinking. Their RBs are unstoppable wrecking machines but Swift and Holyfield combined for less than 20 carries. They had Fromm throw over 34 times, twice for picks. This was LSU’s game all night, and UGA simply was not the better team.

(#6) West Virginia 14 @ Iowa State 30

Hey, remember what I told you during my weekly viewing guide. Iowa State is always good for an upset, and it’s always worth keeping your eye on their game when they’re playing a ranked team. Did you know this game was called the “Riot Bowl”? I didn’t! If you thought Vandy had trouble on third down, WVU went 1/10 on third downs over the course of the game. That should explain the absolutely laughable 152 yards of total offense they managed to muster against a Cyclones team they should have beaten. The Mountaineers were equally useless on defense, allowing nearly 500 yards. Going into the half, WVU managed to block a FG that they took 74 yards to the house. A 20-14 score at the half made it look as WVU would regroup and get it done. They would not score again for the rest of the game.

(#7) Washington 27 @ (#17) Oregon 30

This game was a thriller. Back and forth all the way through, and never outside of a one score affair. Washington and Oregon were extremely evenly matched, and it’s a shame we’ll not get to see them play each other again this year. The big glaring issue, however, was UW could not get sufficient pressure on Oregon’s QB which ended up keeping many drives alive that shouldn’t have been. In the end, UW would be on the Oregon 20 for a last second field goal attempt to win the game. They’d miss, and end up blowing it in OT. The Pac-12 North is going to be a season long struggle.

Michigan State 21 @ (#8) Penn State 17

Let’s be honest, we’re pretty much all anti-PSU fans for the foreseeable future. Not just because of HE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED but because of well, you know THAT THING SBN GETS MAD AT US IF WE TALK ABOUT PSU’S COMPLICITY IN. What makes it even better, however, is how the Penn State fans had joy stripped from them. MSU tied the game up in the third, for PSU to go up halfway through the fourth by a FG. From there, MSU moved with inevitability. It took three drives and two stellar stops by their defense, but MSU managed to get into the endzone with merely 19 seconds remaining. It’s not up yet, so I cannot link you, but run over to RollBamaRoll later today, because they’ll almost certainly feature sad PSU fans in this week’s meltdown.

Tennessee 30 @ (#21) Auburn 24

I gotta admit, I was really only picking this upset in a cynical rage. Because Vanderbilt can never have anything nice, Tennessee was bound to win a big game well enough before we played them. Now they’ll have confidence and not hate themselves. Because that’s how VUFB is. We can never have a sad Tennessee team to play. Tennessee started pulling ahead in the second half, and didn’t look back. Gus Bus may be done at Auburn.

(#19) Colorado 20 @ Southern Cal 31

Southern Cal won a meaningful game. Boo.

(#16) Miami 13 @ Virginia 16

...on the other hand Miami fans are sad after a hilarious loss to Virginia. So Yay.

SEC Basketball Preview: South Carolina

The Gamecocks took a step back a year after a Final Four run, but have most of their key pieces back.

How Did We Get Here?

South Carolina didn’t win an NCAA Tournament game between 1973 and 2017, and didn’t even make the tournament between 2004 and 2017. And then, the Gamecocks won four games in the 2017 tournament. A team that got snubbed in spite of a 24-8 record in 2016 got in as a 7-seed beat Marquette, Duke, Baylor, and Florida en route to the first Final Four in school history.

Predictably, the team took a step back with the losses of Sindarius Thornwell, P.J. Dozier, and Duane Notice — but just how big of a step back might have been a bit jarring. Chris Silva, a role player on the Final Four team, turned in an All-SEC type of performance, averaging 14.3 ppg and 8.0 rpg, but the parts around him never quite fit together. The Gamecocks posted the SEC’s worst offensive efficiency in conference play, averaging under a point per possession. Frank Martin’s teams don’t typically shoot well — the offense “works” mostly because they grab a lot of their own misses and get to the foul line a lot — but even that wasn’t enough to cover a unit that ranked 344th of 351 Division I teams in two-point percentage. In SEC play, the Gamecocks shot a ghastly 39.2 percent inside the arc. (For reference, the second-worst team, Georgia, shot 45.4 percent inside the arc.) Sometimes, the explanation really is that simple.

The good news is that most of the worst offenders in that department are no longer in the program, either through graduation or attrition. The Gamecocks do return 66.4 percent of their possession-minutes from last year, a number that includes basically the entire frontcourt, and they add six newcomers including a pair of talented guards. (They will not, however, add Brian Bowen, a central figure in the FBI scandal who transferred to South Carolina but declared for the NBA Draft after it became clear he had no hope of being declared eligible.) They dodged a bullet when Silva withdrew his name from the draft. Will he get enough help this year?

Backcourt

As a sophomore, Hassani Gravett functioned primarily as a backup shooting guard, but was thrust into the starting point guard role in 2017-18 after projected starter Rakym Felder was suspended (Felder was ultimately dismissed from the program in April.) His transition to being the Gamecocks’ starting point guard in 2017-18 was rocky, to say the least. Gravett did average 3.6 assists per game, but he also committed 2.3 turnovers, including committing 23 turnovers in the Gamecocks’ final five games of the season. He did shoot 39.5 percent from three in SEC play; he also missed three games due to a suspension and lost his starting job for eight games upon his return.

Gravett might be better suited playing off the ball, but South Carolina doesn’t have an obvious alternative. 6’0” senior Tre Campbell played three years at Georgetown, starting 21 games, but could never get his shot to fall: he shot 38.7 percent on two-pointers and 31.7 percent on threes for his career. He also didn’t play at all in 2017-18 following a knee injury in February 2017, though he did stay at Georgetown to complete his degree. 6’2” freshman T.J. Moss is another option, but is a freshman.

At the other guard spot, in addition to Gravett, South Carolina has a couple of freshmen joining the program. A.J. Lawson is a 6’6” combo guard who reclassified from the 2019 class, but was rated as a four-star recruit by Rivals. 6’4” freshman Jermaine Couisnard is another talent, but might not play in 2018-19 due to an academic issue.

6’4”, 240-pound Evan Hinson, a tight end on the football team, started 17 games in 2017-18 and will join the basketball team once football season is over.

Frontcourt

While the backcourt is unsettled, the frontcourt returns five contributors from last season, the biggest of which is Chris Silva. The 6’9”, 234-pound senior from Gabon stepped into the role of go-to guy last season and performed quite well, averaging 14.8 ppg and 8.0 rpg. He led the country in free throw rate (free throw attempts divided by field goal attempts) and also shot 74.9 percent at the line, quite good for a big man; he also posted the SEC’s best offensive rebound rate. He’s also a good shot blocker. The one real knock on Silva is that he still can’t seem to stay out of foul trouble: in 2017-18, he averaged 5.3 fouls per 40 minutes and fouled out five times as a junior, and committed four fouls in 13 other games. That was a big reason he only averaged 25.8 minutes per game — considerably less than you’d like to have your star player on the floor.

After a promising freshman season, 6’11” junior Maik Kotsar regressed last season, seeing his shooting percentage drop from 49 percent to 42.6 percent. There appears to have been some attempt to add an outside shot to his arsenal, as he went from zero three-point attempts to 27, but it didn’t go well — he only made six of them. 7’1” sophomore Jason Cudd played sparingly as a freshman (156 minutes on the season) and will probably need time to develop. 6’9” sophomore Felipe Haase backed up both Silva and Kotsar last season and shot 26.4 percent from three — and shot more threes than twos (he actually shot 50 percent on the latter.)

On the wing, Justin Minaya — the son of former New York Mets GM Omar Minaya — started 30 games as a freshman and, though he was part of the teamwide shooting malaise inside the arc, shot 35.8 percent from outside and Frank Martin clearly trusts the talent here. Three-star freshman Keyshawn Bryant is another option on the wing.

South Carolina also has another freshman in 6’6”, 265-pound Alanzo Frink, who wasn’t rated by any of the major recruiting services but looks like a Frank Martin special.

Schedule

Frank Martin certainly scheduled aggressively. After the first three games, the Gamecocks will play, in an eight-game stretch, Providence, either George Washington or Michigan, at Michigan, Virginia, and Clemson. Oh yeah, and Wofford, Coastal Carolina, and Wyoming aren’t pushovers (and the last one will be played in the highest gym in Division I, if you were looking to increase the degree of difficulty here.) You mean the people putting together the Big 12/SEC Challenge couldn’t have given them Kansas?

In conference play, South Carolina draws Georgia, Mississippi State, Missouri, Tennessee, and Texas A&M twice. That’s kind of a mixed bag: Georgia and Texas A&M will probably be toward the bottom of the league standings, Missouri seems like a middle-of-the-pack team, while Mississippi State and Tennessee are preseason Top 25 teams.

Outlook

South Carolina might never again reach the heights it reached in March and April 2017, and 2017-18 suggested they might not even become a fixture in the tournament. Overall, Frank Martin has done a good job here, with a 113-90 record in six seasons — albeit with a 45-63 SEC record (granted, his record in his first three years after picking up the pieces from Darrin Horn was 15-39.)

2018-19 will tell us a lot about how much staying power South Carolina will have under Martin. A step back last year was somewhat expected, but it was enough of a step back to create questions about how much had been built to withstand the loss of Sindarius Thornwell. Sometimes, building a team around a single great player can lead to short-term success without any real long-term change. (There’s also the continuing revolving door in the program, with 21 players leaving the program with eligibility remaining in Martin’s six years — not counting players who left early for the draft. That’s a trend that didn’t really slow down this offseason, either, with five players departing the program — six if you count Bowen, who never played a game at South Carolina.)

Entering this season, there are a lot of question marks in the backcourt, but the frontcourt, anchored by Chris Silva, should be fine. If South Carolina can get good guard play, the NCAA Tournament is a realistic goal — and Frank Martin has scheduled like that’s the expectation for the season. Fail in that goal, and it’s one NCAA Tournament in seven seasons for Martin. The SEC will be tough, but there’s no reason to think that South Carolina is incapable of making a push for the upper half of the standings assuming Silva is healthy — and if he finally figures out how to stay out of foul trouble, look out.

Anchor Drop: Exhaling Edition

Ke’Shawn Vaughn will play on Saturday, and Derek Mason won’t face any punishment.

Good morning.

Vanderbilt RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn left Saturday’s game against Florida with an undisclosed injury, but he is expected to play at Kentucky on Saturday — which, considering how the offense looked after he left the game, is a good thing.

Also, neither Derek Mason nor Dan Mullen will face any punishment for their roles in the melee during Saturday’s game. Instead, Commissioner Greg Sankey said that any discussions about decorum were handled privately.

Vanderbilt goalkeeper Lauren Demarchi was named the SEC Player of the Week after her performance in the soccer team’s scoreless draw against South Carolina on Friday.

Walker Buehler on the Mound: Game Thread

Buehler’s day on.

Use this for all your Walker Buehler and the Dodgers v. the Milwaukee Brewers talk. Vandy pitchers on the mound 2 days in a row.

Huh, So Yeah. About that UF Loss

Last week I wrote that I no longer had hope for this Vandy team because of they way they were losing. They’d blow a lead or just not show up competitively. At times, they appeared to be out coached. My hope for their key components on offense to find match ups against (even superior) defenses was dashed. The UF game confirmed this for me. Maybe the other teams are just better, and the losses are confirmation of that despite how it happens.

Tom’s Statistical Postmortem is awesome. The numbers show the clear result of a Vandy team getting some turnover luck and leveraging it’s best players on offense against a stunned UF defense. Then it all changes.

The Gator offense looked like it was playing to who they thought they were. They were behind and didn’t have the ability to throw the ball. Then it switched. As Tom pointed out, it wasn’t because of Vaughn’s injury.

In my estimation, it was because the Vanderbilt offense, while responsible for punching in three touchdowns, were not responsible for moving the ball or holding time of possession on those drives. The Commodore defense was gassed. Florida’s first two possessions went for a total of ten minutes of possession.

Florida v Vanderbilt Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

UF’s success rate on rushing attempts went up 60-64%. Passing success rate jumped jumped eight percentage points to 50%. Despite losing nearly 18 yards on average starting field position, they were able to score 34 (34!) points on 458 yards.

Numbers are a result of the play and do not take into account the emotion, energy, or strategery of the game. What could the offense have done to maintain a lead and eat clock to give the Dores their best chance at winning?

I thought they threw it too much and didn’t each clock. In reality, it was only on the first possession after going 21-3 that that happened. And for what it is worth, I appreciated Ludwig’s attempt to continue to score on a reeling UF team.

There were two incomplete passes in the first series after UF scored to narrow the gap to 21-10. The next possession was 8 plays for 44 yards and missed field goal. It was a nice mix of runs and completed passes that moved the ball down the field and ate nearly four minutes off the clock.

Still up 21-20, Vanderbilt’s next possession was for five plays and 2:35. Momentum (which doesn’t technically exist, but is a short hand way of saying one team has found a way to leverage it’s strengths against the opponent and the opponent cannot stop it) was on the Gators side. Vanderbilt had three runs, a completed pass, and an incomplete pass.

Florida v Vanderbilt Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Then they went down 27-21, and the passing started. 20 of the 28 drop backs occurred after the team went down. UF pinned their ear back and went after Shurmur resulting in one sack, one false start, one holding call, and one interception.

Upon inspection, Vanderbilt built a lead by capitalizing on takeaways and leveraging their best RB to maintain possession. Both of those things stopped, and UF leveraged their stronger running game and better athletes on defense to gain the lead and force Vanderbilt into down and distance positions requiring a pass.

I really wanted to blame the coaches (they should have taken a few more fourth down chances) or blame the fans for not showing up or the administration for not funding things. But simply, UF is who we thought they were. We are who we thought we were. The Jimmies and Joes were better in orange and blue.

No game is perfectly called or executed (unless you are Lord Saban and his Sweet Hawaiian Prince). Sure, if an important pass wasn’t dropped or Vaughn didn’t go down with an injury, then it would have been a different game.

Unfortunately for Vanderbilt, the hardest thing to accept is just that the other team was better.

What the hell is the “Commodore Classic”?

On how much of a joke the NCAA’s “exempt event” rule is.

NCAA Division I basketball teams have long had a maximum number of regular season games — currently 28, though in the past that number has fluctuated between 26 and 28 games. That number doesn’t count postseason tournaments (whether of the conference or NCAA/NIT variety), but there are also some other games that don’t count.

A long time ago, the NCAA, recognizing that member schools outside of the continental United States had difficulty filling out their schedules — and particularly getting home games — passed a rule that games played outside of the continental United States didn’t count toward your limit. And schools in Hawaii, Alaska, and Puerto Rico came up with a brilliant idea: host a tournament and invite schools from the mainland to come play three games. The Maui Invitational, the Great Alaska Shootout, the Rainbow Classic, and a handful of other tournaments sprung up as a result.

But then, the rules changed. The NCAA had a rule that stated that no team could play in an exempt tournament more than twice in a four-year period; that was meant to prevent big-name programs (you know who they are) from hogging all the spots in what were, essentially, made-for-TV events during the holidays, but having such a limited number of exempt events also meant that a lot of schools were actually shut out of them. So the NCAA changed the rules: in addition to removing the “two-in-four” restriction, the NCAA also lifted the restriction requiring that the events be played outside the mainland United States. Chris Dobbertean at Blogging the Bracket has the rundown on all of the rules surrounding these events, but the key thing to know is that 2005-06 is the last season that Vanderbilt played the regular, NCAA-mandated 28-game schedule. In every year since, they’ve played in some exempt event that’s allowed them to play 30 or 31 games.

Which brings us to the 2018-19 regular season schedule. You’ll count 31 games on the schedule, but you won’t see anything resembling a tournament on the schedule. Because Vanderbilt is taking advantage of a loophole in the rules.

Here are the requirements for an exempt event, as defined by Bylaw 17.3.5.1.1 of the NCAA Division I manual:

  • The event is sponsored by the NCAA, an active or affiliated member or a member conference and takes place in the Bahamas, Canada, Mexico, or the United States;
  • The event includes no more than four contest per institution and concludes no later than 14 days after the first contest of the event;
  • Participation is limited to no more than one team per conference, and no institution may participate in the same event more than once in a four-year period; and
  • Each participating institution is using the event as its exempt event.

Got it? You’ll notice nowhere that it has to be a tournament format, or that it all has to take place at a single site, or anything like that. Just that you have a few teams playing some games within a 14-day period.

On November 16, Vanderbilt hosts Alcorn State. That same night, Liberty travels to Kent State. Kent State hosts Alcorn State on November 18, Vanderbilt hosts Liberty on the 19th, and Kent State hosts Savannah State on the 20th. On the 23rd, Liberty hosts Alcorn State, and Kent State travels to Vanderbilt. Savannah State goes to Liberty on the 25th and Vanderbilt on the 27th.

The four games that Vanderbilt will play — against Alcorn State, Liberty, Kent State, and Savannah State — between the 16th and 27th of November look completely innocuous on Vanderbilt’s schedule. You won’t find any mention of a tournament of any sort on vucommodores.com, nor will you find any mention of one on the website of Kent State or Alcorn State. (You won’t even find Savannah State’s 2018-19 schedule on their website.)

Liberty’s basketball schedule does make a reference to something called the “Commodore Classic” (and also includes a home game against Trevecca! So I guess Trevecca is participating in this too?!) But a Google search for the “Commodore Classic” reveals... well, a cross country meet we hosted back in September.

This is the brave new world of college basketball. It used to be that to get any more than 28 games, you had to play in some neutral site tournament. But now... well, now you just play a few home games and convince the other teams to schedule each other, and voila, you’ve got a few extra games on your schedule. This is a complete joke.

The Statistical: Florida

After building a 21-3 lead, Vanderbilt decided that was enough. And it failed.

(Aside: I realize that Florida’s yardage after I went through the play-by-play and added everything up doesn’t match the box score. I don’t know why, either, but deal with it.)

Sometimes, a game has a clear turning point. In the Vanderbilt Commodores’ game against the Florida Gators on Saturday, at first glance the turning point in the game would appear to be when Ke’Shawn Vaughn went to the locker room (and would not return), but the score was 14-3 in Vanderbilt’s favor at that point. Vanderbilt would cash in a Florida turnover to expand the lead to 21-3. Here is what the Five Factors box score looked like at that point:

Let’s talk about the game up to that point. The obvious thing that jumps out is that Florida had three scoring chances to that point and had three points on the scoreboard — thanks to two turnovers (one, an interception at the 2-yard line; the other, a fumble that hilariously bounced about 40 yards downfield before Vanderbilt recovered, setting up the Commodores’ third score of the game.) Florida’s success rate and yards per play were notable: the Gators were running successful plays, but to that point they hadn’t broken for any big plays. Florida’s longest single play, at that point in the game, went for 16 yards. Vanderbilt had a sizable advantage in yards per play — but that was almost entirely due to two plays (a 43-yard run by Vaughn and a 75-yard screen pass for a touchdown, also to Vaughn.) Take those away, and the Commodores were averaging a pedestrian 3.9 yards per play.

With all that said — the score was 21-3. It was 21-3 not because Vanderbilt was a better team than Florida (or even playing better than Florida), but because Vanderbilt got a couple of big plays and Florida was, repeatedly, shooting itself in the foot with turnovers and penalties. It was reasonable to think that Florida would start to turn things around at some point; what that meant was that Vanderbilt needed to press its advantage and try to score even more points. That was, obviously, going to be harder without Vaughn in the game, but not impossible.

Instead, we got this:

Gross. For one thing, Vanderbilt completely abandoned the run game, which is an... interesting tactical decision, because the passing game wasn’t doing a whole lot.

But also, three second-half trips inside the 40 ended with six points. (Meanwhile, Florida did start finding the end zone on its drives.) Vanderbilt started its first drive of the second half with great field position and a 21-13 lead; they elected to attempt a field goal on 4th and 2 at the 7. (This is a questionable tactical decision even if you have a reliable kicker. With a kicker who’s been... shaky, well, this ended with zero points.) On its next drive — with the score now 21-20 after a Florida touchdown, helped along by Dan Mullen calling a fake punt on 4th and 3 at his own 37 — Vanderbilt elected to punt on 4th and 4 at the Florida 42. (As if to add insult to injury, Vanderbilt elected to kick a field goal with 3:55 left and a 10-point deficit — and then not attempt an onside kick after.)

Obviously, we don’t know what would have happened had the Commodores tried to convert 4th and 2 at the 7, or 4th and 4 at the 42. They might have wound up with no points on either drive. But in a game that wound up being decided by ten points, we have Vanderbilt, on two separate drives, choosing the route that guaranteed they would score three points at most — instead of taking the route that might have netted fourteen.

There are plenty of valid criticisms to be made of Vanderbilt’s coaching staff, but the tendency to play uber-conservative most of the time (unless their backs really are against the wall) is the easiest criticism to make, and never was it more on display than on Saturday. Remember: Tresselball only worked because Ohio State has a talent advantage at most positions on the field.

Red Sox v. Astros: Will David Price Get His First MLB Playoff Win?

Or will Tony Kemp give a bunch of hugs for homers?

It is no secret that spirits are down in Commodore Nation. Since the moral victory in South Bend, there have not been a lot of celebratory drinks for Dores alums and fans. However, as Tom Stephenson correctly points out, this football team has at least provided a reason for our drinking... and we salute them for it. Regardless, tonight (6pm CT on TBS), Vanderbilt alums and fans are guaranteed a victory: either David Price gets the playoff monkey off his back, or Tony Kemp hugs errybody.

The Case for David Price

I mean, the man’s just too good to have an 0-9 MLB postseason record (in 10 starts), right? RIGHT???

Well, yes and no. At Vanderbilt, especially during his junior year in ‘07 where the big lefty went 11-1 with a 2.63 ERA and an absurd 13.09 K/9, he was as dominant as any college pitcher in recent memory. However, in the postseason, he gave up a walk-off home run to (checks notes, as brain cells holding this information have successfully been eradicated by alcohol) Michigan when Corbs put him in a tie game in the 9th despite me shouting myself blue at the insanity of such a managerial decision.

As a pro, Price has been a regular season ace. In 2018, he has been a 4.4 WAR player, going 16-7 with a 3.58 ERA. For his career, he is a 37.9 WAR player, going 143-75 with a 3.25 ERA.

However, it is impossible to argue he has been the same pitcher in the postseason. This year, in his lone start, he went 1 and 23 IP, gave up 3 runs on 3 hits and 2 walks (for a 16.20 ERA), and had to sulk off the mound like George Michael Bluth.

For his career, Price has not exactly fared that much better in the postseason than he has this year. In 10 career starts, he is 0-9. Price does have 2 wins coming in from the pen, but even counting those in his favor, he is 2-9 with a 5.28 ERA in 18 games.

For those who say, “That just means he’s due,” let me remind you of the Gambler’s Fallacy:

The gambler’s fallacy, also known as the Monte Carlo fallacy or the fallacy of the maturity of chances, is the mistaken belief that, if something happens more frequently than normal during a given period, it will happen less frequently in the future (or vice versa).

Of course, the Gambler’s Fallacy does not preclude Price from pitching well tonight... but it certainly should make the “that just means he’s due” crowd shut the hell up. They won’t, though, and we just have to live with that, as everything is terrible all the time.

Of course, only one stat matters in this debate: Tony Kemp has a career .000/.000/.000 slash against David Price.

*Note: Before all you stats nerds start yelling “SMALL SAMPLE SIZE!!!”—I know. It was just one at bat in total.

The Case For Tony Kemp

I mean, you saw last night’s game, right? Not only did BoSox Manager Alex Cora get himself ejected for arguing balls and strikes, but Justin Verlander was dominant, the Astros landed more than a few punches on the BoSox bullpen, Tony “The Man of Steal” Kemp got a pinch hit double, and most important of all, got to give home run hugs to Josh Reddick and Yuli Gurriel.

In the postseason, Kemp is 2-4 with a double, 2 BBs, and 2 runs scored. That’s a 2018 postseason slash line of .500/.667/.750. One could argue he has more than earned more playing time. One has argued that. “One” is me. I am arguing this. Put the damned man in, Hinch! He’s an on base machine! He’s a demon on the base paths! He can play every position but pitcher and catcher!

*Note: He could probably pitch and catch—possibly at the same time—but the world isn’t ready for that much Kempin’.

Beyond that, earlier this year, the lady friend made me list the three people I care the most about in the world, and it went like this:

Me (replying instantaneously): 1) You, 2) My mother, and 3) Tony Kemp.

Lady Friend: “What about your brother?”

Me: You said top three, right?

Now, Kemp is not guaranteed to even get in this game, and is 0-1 in his career against David Price, but we all know Kempin’ Ain’t Easy.

*Note: Yes, I am currently wearing my Kempin’ Ain’t Easy t shirt. What of it?

The Verdict

Divisional Round - Cleveland Indians v Houston Astros - Game One Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Until Price gets his first postseason victory, I cannot with any degree of confidence pick in his favor. Kemp, on the other hand, doesn’t even need to get an at bat to affect the game. The promise of a Kemp hug is the only reason any Astros player ever goes yard.

I think.

Checking in With the Het-O-Meter

No change since TSU. At least Dietetic Coke guy got his hot dog.

HetsWet

Vanderbilt builds big lead, blows it

Today, in Tales of Commodore Football...

Today’s game between the Vanderbilt Commodores and the Florida Gators started inauspiciously. Vanderbilt took the opening kickoff, went three-and-out, and Florida proceeded to march right down the field. It had all the looks of a blowout loss from the jump.

Except then a weird thing happened. With Florida knocking on the door, the Gators’ Feleipe Franks threw a pass on 2nd and 1 at the Vanderbilt 5 that got tipped and then intercepted by Vanderbilt’s Joejuan Williams. (Williams initially appeared to take it 98 yards for a touchdown, but replay review overturned the call on the field.) On the next play, Vanderbilt got the ball to Ke’Shawn Vaughn, who promptly gave Vanderbilt some breathing room with a 43-yard run. Eight plays later, Kyle Shurmur found Jared Pinkney for a 1-yard touchdown pass that gave Vanderbilt a 7-0 lead. Game on. Florida moved the ball again on its next drive, but settled for a field goal.

And after that field goal, Shurmur, again following the directive to Get Vaughn The Damn Ball, found Vaughn on a screen pass. Vaughn took it seventy-five yards and Vanderbilt took a 14-3 lead. Later on, with Florida driving, Franks fumbled and, after the ball bounced backwards for about 35 yards, Vandy’s Dare Odeyingbo finally jumped onto the ball, giving the Commodores’ offense the ball in a great spot. Four plays later, Vanderbilt found the end zone again to make it 21-3.

Good day, right? Except the good times ended almost immediately. Florida took the ball 75 yards in 12 plays to cut the lead to 21-10, and then, after a Vanderbilt three-and-out, Dare Odeyingbo got leveled by Florida’s James Houston on a punt return. Tempers flared as Derek Mason, while checking on the injured player, had words with Florida’s coaching staff. Both Mason and Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham could be seen yelling, well, a word that will offend some people. Both teams were given an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, leading to the ejection of Florida’s star linebacker Vosean Joseph (who’d picked up a prior unsportsmanlike for putting a WWE move on a Vanderbilt player.)

But also, Ke’Shawn Vaughn — who had been so explosive for Vanderbilt on the first couple of scoring drives — left the game with an injury and would not return. But even after the late charge by the Gators to end the first half, Vanderbilt went into halftime with a 21-13 lead.

The offense without Vaughn, though, was completely ineffective. After forcing a three-and-out to open the second half, Vanderbilt started its first drive of the second half at its own 49 and quickly moved down the field — but the drive stalled and Ryley Guay missed a 25-yard field goal. The Commodores appeared to stop Florida’s ensuing drive, but Dan Mullen called a fake punt on 4th and 3 at his own 37, which resulted in an 18-yard run by punter Tommy Townsend, and Florida found paydirt three plays later when Franks found Van Jefferson for a 38-yard touchdown pass that cut Vanderbilt’s lead to 21-20. (The vivid contrast between the two coaching staffs came on Vanderbilt’s next drive, when the Commodores punted on 4th and 4 at the Florida 42 — which was downed at the Gators’ 5-yard line, but Florida would score anyway on a 95-yard touchdown drive.)

After another three-and-out, Vanderbilt briefly found life after Florida fumbled — again — but the Commodores’ offense couldn’t get into the end zone and settled for a field goal, making it 27-24. But Florida responded with a 9-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that appeared to put the game away as the Gators extended their lead to 34-24.

Vanderbilt put together a last-gasp drive, but settled on a 53-yard field goal — and then kicked it deep with under four minutes left. With a stop, Vanderbilt might have had some hope, but they didn’t get one, and Florida added on a field goal for a 37-27 win.

This drops Vanderbilt’s record to 3-4 and 0-3 in the SEC. And this is a horrible, horrible way to lose.

Game 7: Gators at Commodores

It’s Homecoming! At 11 AM!

Florida Gators (5-1, 3-1 SEC) at Vanderbilt Commodores (3-3, 0-2 SEC)

When: 11:00 AM CT, Saturday, October 13, 2018

Where: Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee

TV: ESPN/WatchESPN

Radio: Vanderbilt IMG Sports Network

The Vanderbilt Commodores have lost their first two games in SEC play, dropping a 37-14 decision to South Carolina back on September 22 and a 41-13 loss to Georgia last weekend. They’ll look to pick up their first SEC win of the season today as the Florida Gators come to town for what is Vanderbilt’s only home game in a six-week stretch. After this, the Commodores will travel to Kentucky and Arkansas over the next two weeks; then, after a bye week, they’ll travel to Missouri.

That partially explains why this is Vanderbilt’s Homecoming game, and as you’ll recall, homecoming is about more than football: James Wiseman, the nation’s top basketball recruit, will be in town for his official visit. So that’s something. Let’s hope that is less interesting than the game, in which Florida opened as a 10-point favorite and is now a 7-point favorite, indicating that a lot of gamblers are more confident in the Commodores than we are, which is... weird. Jeff Sagarin’s ratings think that Florida should be favored by about 13, and S&P+ predicts a 34-20 final score. (I, for one, do not think this game will be that high-scoring.)

Anyway, let’s see if this game hearkens back to the old traditions of the Jefferson Pilot Network, with its bad camera work and insistence on having a man named Dave on the broadcast. There is a man named Dave on ESPN’s broadcast, but it’s Dave Pasch, not Dave Neal; and he’ll be joined in the booth by Greg McElroy, who is decidedly NOT named Dave (and is also not Dave Pasch’s broadcast partner for college basketball games, Bill Walton, which is a severe disappointment.)

Anchor Down!

Saturday Tailgate: Florida

Simpler Times...

CHOMP CHOMP

AoG Week in Review

For a brief moment last Saturday, I had hope. Remember what I said about the plight of the Vanderbilt fan? It hit me again. It is an unending rollercoaster where despite all common sense and logic, you start to tell yourself “maybe it can happen”. Only to have your hopes smashed. I’m sure I’ve used the metaphor before, but I’d wonder if it’s something like a clam feels in its final moments. Snapped up by a hungry Gull, lifted high, and for a brief moment maybe thinking you’ll hit the water instead of the jagged rocks to be feasted upon like so many before you.

This team’s depth has improved considerably, but our problem is still just a dearth of talent. We simply do not have the overall skill to compete at a level most of us want. Some of this can be made up for with better coaching. I’m not convinced all of it can be. One thing coaching can absolutely do is bring in consistently good talent, and it’s not as if Mason has failed there. Truth be told, I’m not quite sure where to pin the failures. The simple fact is this team isn’t doing as well as I’d (or most of y’all) would like. He’s been given sufficient time to build and has absolutely improved; however, I think we’ve seen the apex.

Worse still is that while the back end of our schedule looked to be some relief, that’s changed in the last month. What looked to be beatable UF, Mizzou, UK games are now probably losses. Arky, OM and UT still look beatable. The issue now though is we’ll need to get 3 SEC wins to get a bowl and that’s unlikely. Don’t “but APR!” me. APR bowls are unacceptable. I don’t want charity.

We’re all in general agreement regarding being so down on this team. There was a lot of promise and we’re once again just disgusted. We’re even united on it being time for a new coach. We may disagree with timing but it probably time. With a new AD coming in, and Shurmur graduating, it seems like there will not be a much better time for a new coach. Still, I think that even if we bring in a new AD immediately it’s likely we have Mason for another year. I just don’t see a new AD not giving Mason a chance, even if just for optics. Still, if Mason can get 3+ games to close out the season, it could be even more than just a year.

Today we find out if there’s anything positive to look forward to.

OTHER NOTES

Around the League

Utah trounced Stanford, Texas almost let the Sooners come back from a 3 TD deficit, Miami almost lost to FSU. I got all your discount summaries in Around the League.

There's Other Fooball

Now that we’re in the heart of the season, there’s a ton of conference games and top-25 matchups. I’ve got some stupid advice for you as to what to watch.

Get Ready for VU Football

We’ve got CHOMP CHOMP this week... for homecoming, because Vanderbilt’s homecoming is apparently planned by people with a sense of humor darker than mine. We’ve (see: not me) somehow motivated ourselves to write our previews of both the Gator offense and defense. Florida just beat LSU, which I suppose looks imposing. I want to point out, however, that LSU should have won that game and needlessly threw in important situations and should have trusted their RBs more. Florida’s three man rush was giving the LSU OL fits all night. Part of that is that LSU’s OL is depleted and just got exposed. The other is that UF’s DL is legit as hell.

If you’re looking for some kind of optimism, have this: the second half of the season begins today. If Mason is a good coach, he can turn things around as any coach would make halftime adjustments in a game. Just as small adjustments during a game can change it’s outcome, larger adjustments between games can change the course of the season. If Mason is truly the future for us, he’ll begin to show it today. He knows it’s now or never. It’s put up or shut up time once and for all. The six game stretch to show what we can really do begins today.

Oh, and we have our doomsaying Saturday predictions too. Feel free to weigh in.

ANCHOR DOWN!

AoG Staff Pick’em 2018: Week 7

We had TWO pushes last week!

Also, I caught a mistake from week 4 that I’ve corrected.

The Rules

  1. Picks are with the spread to keep things interesting. The spreads don’t move once I set them.
  2. All SEC games will be used, unless they are playing a 1-AA opponent (or no spread was set)
  3. I will choose a single non-SEC “game of the week” for us to pick against as well.

Feel free to mock our picks or weigh in with picks of your own!

The Standings

WRITER SEASON WEEK 6
W L W L
DotP 28 23 1 5
VU04 26 25 1 5
Tom 26 25 4 2
CDA 25 26 3 3
Jenn 25 26 3 3
VTPhD 25 26 1 5
Shawn 25 26 2 4

Week 7 Picks

GAME VTPhD Tom DotP CDA VU04 Jenn Shawn
Missouri (+28)
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Alabama
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Tennessee (+16.5)
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Auburn
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Florida (-7)
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Vanderbilt
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Georgia (-7)
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LSU
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Ole Miss (-6)
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Arkansas
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Texas A&M (-2)
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South Carolina
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Washington (-3.5)
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Oregon
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Saturday Predictions: Florida at Vanderbilt

Well this would be a nice way to turn the season...

To say that the Vanderbilt Commodores haven’t had much success against the Florida Gators would be an understatement. Since Florida became an every-year opponent when the SEC split into two divisions in 1992, and turned a sporadic game (the Commodores and Gators had played each other just 25 times prior to 1992) into an annual matchup, the Gators have owned the series: Vanderbilt is 1-25 against Florida in that stretch.

On the other hand, after mostly noncompetitive games when Steve Spurrier was at Florida (including, of course, the 71-13 destruction in Woody Widenhofer’s final season), Vanderbilt has at least come close in recent years. Since James Franklin finally got the Gators in 2013, Vanderbilt lost 9-7 on a late field goal in Gainesville in 2015, then lost 13-6 in 2016. Last year, Florida won 38-24, but a late touchdown on a 4th-down run made the final margin look bigger than it should have been.

Vanderbilt comes into Saturday’s matchup having lost three of four, while Florida is running hot on a four-game winning streak, including back-to-back wins over Top 25 teams in Mississippi State and LSU. A lot of outsiders are pegging this as a potential trap game for Florida, which has the bye week followed by the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party following this game. What say the Anchor of Gold staff?


Tom Stephenson

Well, here we are. The good feelings from the first three games of the season — two comfortable wins over MTSU and Nevada followed by a near-miss at Notre Dame — are mostly gone, and Vanderbilt comes into Saturday’s game against Florida needing a win to save the season. And I don’t think they’re going to get it.

Here’s what I don’t like. I don’t like Florida’s defensive line getting into Kyle Shurmur’s grill. And I definitely don’t like a receiving corps that’s been a one-man show for much of the season going up against the Gators’ talented secondary. Florida’s offense (or lack thereof) means that this might end up being a close-ish game, because the Gators just aren’t going to score a ton of points... but it’s honestly difficult for me to see Vanderbilt scoring too many points on this defense, either. That it’s likely to be close-ish and low-scoring means that a couple of big plays by the defense — a pick six, a scoop and score, what have you — or even a home run by the offense could be enough to swing things. But those are things that haven’t been coming too often against strong opponents.

The Pick: Florida 20, Vanderbilt 10.

The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: I want LSU (+8) over Georgia to happen, so I’m gonna predict it. Do it. Geaux Tigah.


Andrew VU ‘04

Real quick, have you seen how fast the Jorts’ defense is? No, seriously. Go back and watch film on them from the past two games. You cannot beat them to the edge. Period.

Are they beatable? Of course—if you have Alabama, Georgia, or last year’s Notre Dame team’s interior offensive line, you could, in theory, muscle them around and pound the A gap to great success.

We do not have those interior offensive linemen.

The Pick: Florida 27, Vanderbilt 13.

The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: The Game Penises will make aTm go aTm.


VandyTigerPhD

The fact is that while LSU’s OL is depleted, they’re still tremendously talented. They were having trouble against even three man rushes the UF DL was sending. I’m not confident we’re going to get much of anything going on offense. Our defense, while good, isn’t ready to stop the Florida SEC SPEED (as VU04 correctly observes). I see this game getting out of hand in the second half. Early in the game it may be competitive but it’ll fall apart like all Vandy games do. As we used to say when I used to be in the student section, “we’d win every game if it was only three quarters!”

The Pick: Florida 35 - Vanderbilt 16

SEC Upset Pick of the Week: I cannot go LSU HEAUXMER on this week. The UGA DC isn’t stupid and will learn from UF how to stop LSU enough. That game is going to be a one score game, but LSU will not be on top short of another miracle comeback. But it’s not night in Death Valley, so....

Auburn will continue to torture their fans and Vandy fans will get to bite their nails even more as TENNESSEE (+16.5) wins at Jordan-Hare.


Shawner Allen

This game will be similar to the Notre Dame game. Both opponents struggle on offense (ND has since changed QB’s and added a stud RB), and both have elite defenses. This is Vanderbilt’s last shot to get up for a game and beat a ranked team before the losses mount up and demoralize the players.

I predict a relatively quick game with lots of ground attack from both teams. Vandy has a better balance on offense, but they don’t have the speed to compete with UF’s defense in the air. However, with a couple methodical drives and turnover luck, Vandy could win this. But they won’t.

UF’s offense will pound the rock with two strong RB’s and pick its spots with Franks against a suspect Commodore secondary.

The Jimmies and Joes will prevail. Ugh. I hate the Gators.

The Pick: 23-17, Lizards.

SEC Upset of the Week: South Carolina over the Aggies. You better believe Jimbo will lose a game against an unranked team every year.


DoreonthePlains

As VU ‘04 pointed out (and VTPhD misread), Florida’s DEFENSE is scary fast. It is going to take Kyle Shurmur being at his best pre-snap to identify pressure and try to give his OL a chance in both run and pass blocking. Even then, we may just flat out lose the matchups due to their skill up front. Our OL has been good so far, but they’ll need to take a huge step forward to keep Shurmur clean. Although, Florida has leaked against the run some, so maybe Vaughn can find some creases to get through and make plays.

When the Gators have the ball, it’s about their running game. They average 198.8 yards passing per game and 181.5 yards on the ground. Tarver’s plan should be very similar to Notre Dame. Force Franks to beat you with his arm if at all possible. Franks is 84/153 on the season and has only completed 50% or more of his passes against Charleston Southern (66.7%), Colorado State (53.3%), THEM (50.0%), and Mississippi State (71.0%). Even the CSU and UT games were not efficient outings. If the Commodores can stop the run, it will at least keep us in the game.

The Pick: 23-20

SEC Upset of the Week: I really don’t think there will be one this week, but if I had to pick one, it would probably be us. Maybe SC over A&M? The Game Penises have been too inconsistent, and Jimbo is going to use the close win over UK to show them they have a long way to go. Or for more hand-wringing for us, Arkansas finds a way to beat Ole Miss. Meh.

Lessons in Vanderbilt Football: Georgia

Ke’Shawn Vaughn made another very strong argument that he should get the bulk of the carries.

Athens may not be Sparta, but it is still a place with many painful lessons to learn.

Losing 41-13 is not the way to improve morale after barely beating an FCS team. Oddly, Head Coach Derek Mason and starting QB Kyle Shurmur were fairly positive following the loss. Mason felt confident in his perspective post-game and saw where problems could be addressed. Shurmur saw enough positive play to think the offense can be successful going forward. Granted, this loss was not a blow out against a mediocre opponent. The Commodores went into Athens and lost going away to the #2 in the country due to a slow death march of a second half. After being in a 14-6 game with 2:28 left in the first half, Georgia drove 75 yards in 6 plays to make it 21-6 before the half then received the 2nd half kickoff and tacked on another 7. The 28-6 score put the game in a precarious position, and the Commodores never recovered. A primetime test, even with an ugly final score, at an elite opponent can teach the players, coaches, and fans a lot of things.

Lessons We Are Learning

The best place to start is the good stuff. CJ Bolar is quickly becoming a very valuable weapon. His last two performances have shown that Kyle Shurmur correctly trusts him to make plays. When Jared Pinkney got banged up in the first half, Bolar got targeted 4 times. Two of them were good catches and runs for 14 and 15 yards. The first one did end in a fumble Vandy recovered, so the freshman needs to be aware of ball security. The second was a Shurmur laser into tight coverage that Bolar absorbed some contact to hold onto firmly. As for the two incompletes his way, one was a great defensive play to break up a curl route while Shurmur misfired over Bolar’s head on the other.

One group that I am almost ready to say we know what they are is the offensive line. They are not the best OL in the conference, but they are solid at a minimum. They are 15th in the country in Sacks Allowed Per Game (1.00) and t-48th in TFLs Allowed Per game (5.50). They only allowed 4 TFLs against Georgia. The TFLs Allowed number is inflated a bit by the 8 that South Carolina managed aided by a particularly bad snap. Furthermore, Vanderbilt’s top 4 running backs have carried the ball 171 times and churned out 938 yards. Averaging almost 5.5 YPC is indicative of an effective offensive line. There were a few missed assignments on critical downs against Georgia though, so they still have work to do to improve. Bruno Reagan said the group is “unbelievably close” to breaking through and getting to where they want to be. Florida’s fearsome front will give them a hard task on Saturday, but another good performance could solidify their standing.

Speaking of the rushing attack, Mason has plans for change there. Ke’Shawn Vaughn is supposedly going to be the feature back moving forward. To an extent, he has already been since his 65 carries are 18 more than Blasingame’s 47 and 23 more than Wakefield’s 42. He still only had 9 carries against Georgia while Wakefield rushed 8 times with Blasingame having 6 chances to tote the rock. The disparity comes when you notice Vaughn had 79 yards (8.8 YPC) while Wakefield had 25 yards (3.1 YPC) and Blasingame had 20 yards (3.3 YPC). The problem is that Blasingame got 19 on 1 carry. Wakefield also did not have a carry of more than 7 yards. Vaughn was effective throughout with the threat of a big play. Taking away his 43 yarder, Vaughn still ran for 36 yards on 8 carries. An average of 4.5 YPC is pretty useful against a VERY good Georgia defense. It was also Vaughn’s 3rd game being over 8 YPC along with Nevada and TSU. Outings with averages of 5.4 and 4.1 against Notre Dame and MTSU, respectively, are not unimpressive either. His only lackluster performance was SC when he only went for 30 yards on 9 carries. It will be interesting to see what damage Vaughn can do against a somewhat susceptible Florida run defense allowing 172.5 YPG and 4.09 YPC. The other backs should still have roles, so it will be interesting to see how much the usage shifts.

Another player getting more focus in the offensive gameplan is CJ Bolar. He paced Commodore pass catchers in Athens in both receptions and yardage with 4 catches for 46 yards. The ball was spread around a lot with 9 receivers combining for 16 receptions. On the season, Bolar now trails Jared Pinkney for 2nd on the team in receptions by a mere 4 catches with 15 passes caught. All of those have come in the last 4 games, too. If you are curious, a second half of the season that matches the first half (15 catches for 179 yards) would out pace the freshman campaigns of both Jordan Matthews and Kalija Lipscomb just in case you want to get REALLY crazy with the hype machine. Of course, it is also fair to expect that the second half of his season is better than the first half, so I will let each of you to decide how much of THAT sunshine to pump straight into your veins.

After being generous to not be more definitive about the defensive problems, namely missed tackles due to strip attempts, my faith was somewhat repaid. Georgia still averaged an obscene 8.8 yards per play, but the tackling was noticeably better. Even after watching the game a second time when I knew Georgia was going to be ripping off big yards early and often, it did not feel like the defense was just being mauled. They were definitely outmatched and beaten consistently, but they seemed oddly competitive for a group that gave up 41 points and 560 yards of total offense. If the tackling can keep this improvement or get better still (a few bad examples still showed), a not-so-great Florida offense could be held strongly in check.

Special teams is getting split this week because one section deserves to graduate. The other main portion gave us a pleasant surprise. After misses of 27 (!) and 46 yards against TSU, Ryley Guay was on target from 25 and 42 yards. Guay needs to turn that outing into a bona fide turnaround because Vanderbilt will surely need key points in the kicking game down the stretch. Mason needs to be able to trust his kicker to tack on points when the offense stalls or is stymied.

Lessons We Know Well

Shurmur was uncharacteristically positive in his post-game media availability. The senior quarterback tends to be in a foul mood during these appearances. His demeanor is not rude, but it shows the extent of his competitive drive. Bucking that trend was surprising, especially on a night where Shurmur only went 14 of 28 for 169 yards to earn a RAW QBR of 43.9 (Georgia’s stout defense raised the Total QBR to 69.6). The signal caller was also visibly agitated on the sidelines, whether with himself or others was never clear. Whatever the cause of the change in mood, Shurmur needs to avoid having a 3rd straight lackluster SEC outing. The Georgia and South Carolina games have been okay at best. Vanderbilt needs more from its quarterback in league play to get to a bowl game.

Since they were both quiet against Georgia, Kalija Lipscomb and Jared Pinkney have to share space. Lipscomb had 2 catches for 16 yards while Pinkney had 1 catch for 12 yards. The dangerous tight end did have an injury scare in the first half but returned to play much of the second half. Pinkney actually tied with Bolar for number of times targeted at 6. I do not have a chance by chance breakdown of those passes thrown his way, but no drops really stood out. On the outside, Deandre Baker did a very good job locking down Lipscomb. Like Shurmur, Kalija will need to find ways to overcome the issues he faces in the coming weeks to help Vanderbilt achieve its goal of a bowl game. He cannot go so quiet for an entire game again.

Parker Thome stakes his claim to our confidence by having another good game. Of his 6 punts, 3 travelled 50 yards or more. The other three ended as a touchback, down at the UGA 22, and downed at the UGA 10. Thome’s leg could become very important against Florida where the game could turn into a defensive struggle. Field position can become vital very quickly. Hopefully, he can be the key to avoiding any more 12-yard punts that have sunk us against Florida.

Lessons for Further Study

How does Bolar’s ascent change how defenses cover Pinkney and Lipscomb? A defense can only double and shade coverage to so many places at a time without leaving massive gaps elsewhere. CJ Bolar continuing his growth will demand better coverage, so teams may not be able to shift so much towards Vanderbilt’s best two pass catchers. Then, it will be down to Shurmur finding Jared and Kalija to capitalize. Or, maybe, the rise of a 3rd threat creates even MORE space for the other receivers on the field. Could someone else step up to add more firepower to the offense?

Where did all of these penalties come from in Athens? There were four illegal formation penalties with two of them on consecutive plays! Overall, the Commodores gave up 69 yards due to 9 penalties. Thus far this season, the team had avoided making those mistakes. Maybe the hostile environment mixed with some youth being thrust into more prominent roles, but it needs to be cleaned up. Penalties, especially pre-snap ones on offense, will kill drives. Points are already at a premium, so the Commodores cannot afford to make them harder to come by.

How many defensive linemen are we using? Down Charles Wright due to injury, Tarver and Mason tried to add a little power on the defensive front by going with 4 down linemen somewhat consistently on 1st downs. A few times Vanderbilt even shifted into 5-man fronts, but most of those included an OLB simply putting his hand down in the dirt. Still, the creativity to offer different looks and challenge other teams to adapt can be an advantage. With Feleipe Franks fairly limited as a passer, it would be unsurprising to see this strategy used again this week. An important thing to remember is that putting something like this on tape can simply add to the offense’s confusion. Franks is still very much a developing QB. Even if Vandy is in their base 3-4, simply having OLBs put their hand in the dirt will add to the information Franks has to process pre-snap. The extra time to recognize the front and possible pressure can lead to breakdowns in recognizing coverage.

Where do the Commodores go from here? The record stands at 3-3 like most optimistic projections had them. The most optimistic of these may have included a win over South Carolina. Unfortunately, it appears Kentucky is way better than anticipated while Florida may have some bite. Arkansas managed to score 31 points against Bama’s backups after already being down 3 or more scores, so it is hard to know how useful that information is. Tennessee seemed to have a close game against Georgia yet only posted 209 yards of offense in a game that was likely just Georgia being bored and looking ahead to homecoming revenge against Vanderbilt. Missouri cannot decide whether they want to be decent or not. Meanwhile, Ole Miss has accepted that they will give up 1 million points per game while scoring 2 million. The important thing to note is that college football is freaking weird and nobody really knows what is in store these next seven (including an open date) weeks. Derek Mason’s squad needs to win at least 3 of them for this season to measure as any sort of success.

Oh, and will any more Vanderbilt opponents decide to bring (and mostly be allowed to use) whistles to try and throw off our players knowing whether a play is being called dead or not? The tactic was effective on at least one Vanderbilt play from their own 5-yard line where Ke’Shawn Vaughn was handed the ball while most of the offensive line was not sure if the play was over or not. Vaughn had actually broken his stance to look around before realizing the ball had actually been snapped. Derek Mason was justifiably irate while the officials merely told the PA announcer to inform the crowd not to do it anymore…but doing nothing when this request was ignored. Wooooooo!

Each week, we get closer to the end of the season. It means the picture of who this team is keeps solidifying bit by bit. However, college football has this weird way of waiting until we think we know what is happening then slapping us in the face like a sea lion with an octopus slaps a kayaker. The unpredictability is one of the best parts of college football, but it will also surely make some of these assertions look foolish. Embrace the chaos and try not to panic if things look dire.

Better know an SEC opponent: the Florida swamp-havers

Vandy’s 1-26 in its last 27 against the Gators, which could technically be worse!

The School: The University of Florida.

Record: 5-1 (3-1 in the SEC). Florida might be good again, which is...not great for us.

Ranking: No. 14 in the AP Top 25 and No. 16 in the Coaches’ Poll. The S&P+ ratings bumped them from 19th to 14th after handing LSU it’s first loss of the season (and playing Neck! God, if Vandy had a sing-along song we could ruin by adding unnecessary swears to the lyrics I would make the trip down from Wisconsin every week. Our stadium is an eight-minute drive from The Stage and yet ALABAMA is the one getting in trouble for yelling “FUCK TENNESSEE” during Dixieland Delight? How did we miss that one? Or have we been doing it this whole time but are just unable to hear anything from our 10-person student section? These are important questions).

Anyway, Vandy’s ranked 75th. Right in front of Toledo.

Mascot: Albert and Alberta E. Gator. Again, I ask — are they a married couple, or just brother and sister?

Location: Gainesville, FL. A magical swamp with a Hardee’s on every block, and they’re all run by meth-dealing alligators.

Coach: Dan Mullen. Don’t mind Dan, he’s just cleaning up the mess that shark-humper left behind. Mullen coached in Mississippi and isn’t Hugh Freeze, so he automatically seems like a good guy. But nothing gets out of the Magnolia State without a little shame attached. I give it two years before the first Mullen scandal breaks. Hopefully it’s something stupid, too, like how he rigged a catfishing contest to win over a three-star recruit’s dad.

Conference: The ESS-EEE-CEE. And you know what, just since we’re intimately familiar with the Gators, I’m just gonna pretty much reprint these next two lines from last year’s BKASO:

All-time vs. Vanderbilt: 39-10-2. Well that could be wors—-

In the Last 20 Years vs. Vanderbilt: 19-1 AAAAAAHHHHHH

The Last Time We Saw These Guys: Vandy held tough for the first half, then slowly crumpled in on itself to turn a 17-17 game into a 38-24 defeat. I get it. Sisyphus isn’t really in hell unless he gets that boulder *almost* to the top of that mountain, you know?

Is Vandy Favored?: No, but for the second year in a row, the Commodores are only a seven-point underdog. Of course, last year’s single-score spread led to a 14-point loss, so temper your optimism.

What’s that? You are no longer capable of feeling optimism toward anything Commodore football related? Welcome to the club, my friend.

Most Potent Offensive Threat: Lamical Perine came into last year’s game against Vandy with zero rushing touchdowns on the season and left with three. He’s got two touchdowns so far in 2018 and is averaging 1.4 more yards per carry than he did in 2017, which puts him on pace for (jots down numbers, does poor math) ...infinity touchdowns.

Most Potent Defensive Threat: Vosean Joseph had two sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss against LSU last week. Vandy’s offensive line is actually coming together pretty well this fall — Kyle Shurmur was only sacked once on 29 dropbacks against UGA — but when Joseph gets tuned in he can absolutely wreck your shit.

Interesting Fact: Anytime you want to picture your average, non-UF Gainesville resident, just think of Tom Petty without the musical talent, sense of humor, or a single pair of jeans without the ring from a can of Skoal worn through the back pocket.

Bonus Fact!: Gator fans got pumped up for this weekend’s game by, uh, hearing Tomi Lahren say a bunch of probably-racist shit.

If Florida wins, we: take solace in the fact our football players are extremely good and thorough writers.

SEC Basketball Preview: Georgia

Tom Crean brings the memes to the SEC.

How Did We Get Here?

Mark Fox found a cruising altitude, but suddenly, that altitude wasn’t good enough.

Over the last five years, Georgia finished 78th, 35th, 71st, 61st, and 65th in KenPom. Outside of a good year in 2014-15, resulting in one of just two NCAA Tournament bids in Fox’s nine years at Georgia, that’s pretty remarkable consistency. Georgia’s SEC records in those years: 12-6, 11-7, 10-8, 9-9, 7-11. As the Bulldogs remained a team that was consistently on the margins of NCAA Tournament consideration, the rest of the SEC got better. Much like Kevin Stallings at Vanderbilt, Fox built his program in a very old-school manner, relying on bringing in relatively unheralded freshmen, developing them into something, and bringing in very few transfers. Stallings brought in five four-year transfers in 17 years at Vanderbilt; Fox brought in exactly one in his nine years in Athens.

That led to some pretty amazing roster continuity (at least by the standards of the 2010s), but it also produced a roster that was mostly competing for NIT bids. It’s actually pretty amazing how Fox and Andy Kennedy — the other deposed coach in the SEC this year — took very different routes to achieve similar results.

Yet while Kennedy’s team really did take a downturn in 2017-18, leading to his dismissal, Fox’s team was basically a standard-grade Mark Fox team at Georgia. In SEC play, Georgia went 2-5 in games decided by five points or less and fielded the second-worst offense in the conference. They were better on the defensive end (5th), but got outscored by 2.9 points per 100 possessions in conference play.

And that was with Yante Maten, the AP SEC Player of the Year after averaging 19.3 ppg and 8.6 rpg. That Georgia got that level of production from Maten and still managed to finish 7-11 in the conference should tell you quite a bit about how subpar the rest of Georgia’s team was. And now Maten has graduated.

And in comes Tom Crean, the source of the greatest memes on the internet. When the headline of this story is an actual screenshot of your coach, you are in for a good time. Crean is an accomplished head coach, regardless of how much Indiana fans wanted him gone. He went 190-96 and made a Final Four in nine years at Marquette; in nine years at Indiana, after taking over following Kelvin Sampson’s exit, he went 166-135 and won two Big Ten titles.

If Georgia, a program that’s won one SEC regular season title ever, gets even half of what Crean did at Indiana, they should be happy. Georgia’s basketball program has long been regarded as a sleeping giant due in large part to the hefty amount of talent in the state — sound familiar? — but has never been able to capitalize. That’s probably in large part due to the fact that they’ve never really taken basketball seriously. With Crean in charge, though, we’re about to find out if the job is really what it’s cracked up to be. It’s a program that has only made three NCAA Tournaments in the last fifteen years, and hasn’t won a tournament game since 2002 — and hasn’t made it out of the first weekend since 1996.

As far as the near term goes, Crean inherits a better situation than he did at Indiana in 2008 (which... isn’t saying much), but it’s still not a great situation. Remember, this team went 7-11 in the SEC and finished 65th in KenPom with Yante Maten. Crean did dip into some of the in-state talent pool to bring in three of the four members of the freshman class (though really, two of those were Fox recruits), and the roster is sprinkled with former four-star recruits... but there aren’t a lot of proven players on this roster.

Backcourt

William Jackson II, Tyree Crump, and Jordan Harris were all highly-regarded recruits from the state of Georgia, the kind of players that the head basketball coach at Georgia has to land to get in order to succeed. Mark Fox convinced all three to come to Athens (or in Jackson’s case, stay in Athens); that none of the three have really lived up to expectations is part of the reason that Fox is no longer the coach.

Jackson, a 6’2” senior, has come the closest to being a productive player, and that only happened during his junior year. After averaging 4.1 ppg with an assist-to-turnover ratio barely above water as a sophomore, his scoring average jumped to 8.4 ppg with a nearly 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio as a junior. But that also came with 34.8 percent shooting, including an awful 40.8 percent inside the arc. Crump, a former top 100 recruit, averaged 6.5 ppg as a sophomore last year — albeit in just 14.8 minutes per game. (That a player as talented as Crump was playing less than 15 minutes a game as a sophomore is sort of weird.) And Harris, another four-star recruit, averaged 15.8 minutes per game and just 3.5 ppg as a sophomore while playing in only 18 games, missing the final 12 games of the season due to a suspension.

6’4” sophomore Teshaun Hightower came on late in the season, scoring in double figures in three of the team’s last five games; those were also his only three games all season in double figures. Those four are the returning guards. Crean added a couple more late in the cycle after taking the job. Tye Fagan, a 6’3” freshman from Thomaston, got out of a letter of intent with Middle Tennessee after Kermit Davis left; while Ignas Sargiunas, a 6’5” combo guard from Lithuania, chose the Bulldogs late over SMU and Arizona State. There is upside in this backcourt, but basically zero proven parts.

Frontcourt

Even with Maten gone, Georgia does have a few intriguing pieces in the frontcourt. 6’9” senior Derek Ogbeide has never developed into much of an offensive force outside of five feet from the basket, but he’s a good defender and one of the SEC’s best rebounders. 6’8” sophomore Rayshaun Hammonds, a top 50 recruit out of high school in Norcross, was supposed to be Maten’s replacement last year — but when Maten returned for his senior year, Hammonds was ticketed for a smaller role than expected. Still, even while playing 24.2 minutes per game, Hammonds averaged 6.7 ppg and 4.9 rpg and figures to play a bigger role in 2018-19. And 6’11” sophomore Nicolas Claxton, the son of former UGA star Charles Claxton, showed impressive upside as a freshman — blocking 1.3 shots per game and also shooting 36.4 percent from three in 14.7 minutes per game.

A pair of seniors — 6’9” Mike Edwards and 6’6” E’torrion Wilridge — are kind of indicative of the negative of Fox’s reliance on four-year players; Edwards and Wilridge have both taken up a scholarship for four years while not really doing much other than providing an additional body off the bench. Edwards saw his minutes cut in half as a junior, and Wilridge has averaged 1.5 ppg for his career (and has started 20 games!)

Two freshmen signed with Fox in the fall and stuck with Crean when he took the job. Amanze Ngumezi, a 6’9”, 245-pound four-star recruit from Savannah, is the attention-grabber here and should at least provide depth up front as a freshman, if not more. 6’6” swingman JoJo Toppin, a high school teammate of Hammonds, was a three-star recruit and will probably come off the bench as a freshman.

Schedule

Sometimes, you can tell quite a bit about what a coach thinks about his team from the nonconference schedule he puts together. And sometimes, like above, a new coach is saddled with a schedule loaded with the back ends of series signed by his predecessor. Georgia plays a return game at Temple in the second game of the season and ends 2018 with the back end of a home-and-home with UMass; there’s also a game with Oakland that was part of a 2-for-1 signed to get Yante Maten a game in front of his home crowd. There is also, of course, the rivalry game with Georgia Tech just before Christmas, and a home game against Arizona State. They’ll also play in the Cayman Islands Classic, which includes Clemson, Creighton, Boise State, St. Bonaventure, and Georgia State — not a field with a ton of names, but one that does have some potentially salty teams in it. If everything’s not clicking early in the season, Georgia could have a bad record entering SEC play.

In SEC play, having an annual home-and-home with Auburn is suddenly not a good thing; neither is the home-and-home with Florida, for that matter. Georgia will also see South Carolina, LSU, and Ole Miss twice; the last one might be a battle for the basement of the conference.

Outlook

In the long term, Tom Crean should be at least a good hire for Georgia, and could be a great hire. This is, after all, a man who has been to a Final Four and did much better at Indiana than he was ever given credit for.

In the short term, though, Tom Crean with a roster built by Mark Fox is just a weird match. Mark Fox built his teams around tough defense and stodgy offense; Crean is a man who built great offensive teams at Indiana that were held back by iffy defenses. Given time, Crean should be able to build a roster to his liking, but much like the transition from Kevin Stallings to Bryce Drew at Vanderbilt, this one’s probably going to take time to work. There are some intriguing pieces on the roster, particularly in the frontcourt — I like the upside of Nicolas Claxton, and Rayshaun Hammonds was a top 50 recruit — but the roster is very unproven. There just aren’t a lot of players whom Crean knows he can rely on.

This looks, at least on paper, like one of the SEC’s worst teams in 2018-19, though it probably won’t be a bad team — just the kind of team that finishes 13th or 14th in the current iteration of the SEC. Crean’s real strength will become apparent once he’s had a couple of years to recruit players into the program.

Anchor Drop: Soccer goes for 14

Vanderbilt soccer hosts South Carolina tonight looking to make it 14 in a row.

Good morning.

Vanderbilt soccer is back in action tonight, hosting #9 South Carolina at 7 PM at the Vanderbilt Soccer Complex. Last time out, the Commodores scored two late goals to secure a 3-1 win at Tennessee, extending their winning streak to 13 games and improving to 6-0 in the SEC. Tonight, they’ll look to win their 14th game in a row.

Women’s golf travels to Chapel Hill, NC, for the Ruth’s Chris Tar Heel Invitational, starting today and running through Sunday.

This doesn’t seem like a great sign: women’s basketball assistant coach Carolyn Peck is leaving the Commodores and returning to work as a TV analyst less than a month before the season, Stephanie White’s third in Nashville.

Jeff Roberson was released by the Boston Celtics, though Celtics Blog suggests that he’s likely to be picked up by the Celtics’ G-League affiliate.

Player Preview: Saben Lee

The plans to bring Lee along slowly last year did not last very long.

When Bryce Drew took the Vanderbilt job in April 2016, the Commodores didn’t really have a point guard. Wade Baldwin IV was leaving for the NBA, Riley LaChance was more of a two, and incoming freshman Payton Willis was a combo guard (but really a two.)

Unsurprisingly, the first two players that he added were point guards, though neither played in 2016-17. That year, Vanderbilt got by with LaChance as the point guard, but transfer Larry Austin Jr. was going to be eligible in 2017-18; and in June, Drew picked up a commitment from a rising point guard from Arizona named Saben Lee.

Going into last season, we thought that Austin would be the starter at the point, with Lee being brought along slowly. That was the way the team came out for the season opener against Austin Peay — but on that night, it was also obvious that the arrangement would not last very long. Austin and Lee each played 20 minutes, and Lee (6 points, 7 assists) was clearly a more productive player than Austin (2 points on 1-of-4 shooting, 2 assists.) In the second game of the season, Lee scored 19 points off the bench in a loss at Belmont, and that was that. Lee started every game but one the rest of the season; Austin ended up going to Central Michigan as a graduate transfer.

The bad news about Austin being such a flop was that Vanderbilt had to live with Lee’s ups and downs as a freshman more than they would have with another viable option at the point. Austin briefly made a comeback in a November game against USC, when Lee played just 13 minutes with two points and two turnovers. Lee had a dreadful game against Virginia (0-for-7 from the floor in 20 minutes) and briefly lost his starting job afterwards, though only for a game.

But his real breakout game came on December 17, and it happened in his hometown. Playing in Tempe, Arizona, where he went to high school, Lee scored 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting and also had 6 assists and 4 steals against an Arizona State team that was ranked in the top 5 at the time. And Lee would top the 20-point mark twice in early January, scoring 23 in a win over Alabama and 21 in a loss to Tennessee. He scored in double figures in 11 of 18 SEC games. His jump shot, an utter weakness early in the season, improved to the point that he shot 39.1 percent from three in SEC play, complementing his driving ability.

Overall, it was a strong debut for Lee, though his disappearance in a handful of SEC games — scoreless in a loss at Tennessee, one point in a home win over Florida — was notable. So, too, were his turnovers. Lee coughed it up 43 times in 18 SEC games and five times in the SEC Tournament loss to Georgia. But it was hard not to look at Lee — a guy who ranked outside the top 100 of recruiting rankings, if barely — and not get excited about what Bryce Drew could do once he had a team full of his own recruits. Lee’s athleticism was a notable departure from the Kevin Stallings era, when Vanderbilt would frequently deploy bigger, somewhat less quick guards who were better shooters than Lee was coming out of high school. (I even wrote about this exact thing back when Lee committed in June 2016.)

Going into 2018-19, Lee is — by a considerable margin — Vanderbilt’s best returning player. Of course, “best returning player” is not the same thing as “best player on the team,” and here’s where the questions come in. Getting a performance as good as we got from Lee as a freshman would be fine; getting an improved Lee would be even better. But he won’t be the team’s starting point guard. Oh sure, he’ll start, but not at point guard — that’s going to be Darius Garland’s job.

This presents both opportunities and problems for Vanderbilt. Having two quick, athletic guards on the floor at the same time in Garland and Lee will help improve Vanderbilt’s defense — which often struggled to get ball pressure in 2017-18 — and having two creators on the offensive end will make the offense run like Drew would like it to. On the other hand, that’s two 6’2” players on the floor at the same time, which could present some matchup problems against teams with bigger guards. And can Lee handle playing off the ball? How Garland and Lee coexist in Vanderbilt’s backcourt might determine how far the Commodores can go in 2018-19.

Opponent Defense Preview: Florida

Florida ranks 11th in the country in Defensive S&P+.

If Florida’s offense has been a bit ugly, its defense has made opposing offenses ugly this season as well.

In terms of S&P+, Florida’s defense will be the second-best that Vanderbilt has faced this season. Notre Dame ranks 5th nationally, but Florida’s defense (11th) is better than the one Vanderbilt saw at Georgia last week (19th.) The Gators do well at preventing successful plays (34.6% defensive success rate, 13th nationally) — and when you do create scoring opportunities, Florida snuffs those out as well. Opponents are averaging just 3.11 points per scoring opportunity, the second-lowest mark in the country.

We’ll take a pause to point out that the raw numbers are probably dragged down by playing some flat-out unimpressive offenses: Florida has played FCS Charleston Southern, Kentucky (90th in Offensive S&P+), Colorado State (95th), Tennessee (30th — wait, what?!), Mississippi State (48th), and LSU (49th.) When Tennessee is the best offense you’ve seen, well, you haven’t played any really good offenses. (Vanderbilt ranks 80th in Offensive S&P+, if you were wondering.)

Still, the Gators’ defensive line is excellent. Junior ends Jachai Polite (6 sacks this season) and Jabari Zuniga (4.5 sacks) are two of the SEC’s best; Polite has also forced four fumbles. Behind him, junior LB Vosean Joseph has 28.5 tackles, including 6.5 tackles for loss and 3 sacks; Chauncey Gardner-Johnson — who plays a kind of hybrid safety/linebacker role similar to Oren Burks at Vanderbilt — has a team-leading 29 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, and two sacks.

Opponents have had some success running on Florida, but between the pass rush and a good secondary, the Gators have one of the best pass defenses in the SEC. Safety Brad Stewart leads the team with two interceptions, while CB C.J. Henderson has four pass breakups.

There’s Other Football: 2018 WK 7

Some solid games this week, so if (when) the Florida game goes South, fear not! There’s a lot of good football to be had.

Tennessee @ (#21) Auburn 1200 ET (1100 CT) SECN

...but bad news up front is that if our game goes South, there’s not much else to watch. Tennessee Auburn is pretty much the first game I’d check up on. Auburn are huge favorites, but the way I see it you get one of two things out of this game. The more likely outcome is you’ll get to watch Tennessee get obliterated. The less likely outcome (more likely if you ask Auburn fans) is you may see Auburn struggle yet again against a team they shouldn’t. Either way, if you’re tuning out of the Florida game, it’s a better option.

(#2) Georgia @ (#13) LSU 1530 ET (1430 CT), CBS

LSU lost a very winnable game in the Swamp last week. LSU WRs once again showed that while they’ll make insane circus catches, they’ll still drop the ball when you hit them in the hands. That’s normal for LSU, and that’s why it doesn’t bother me. What does bother me is that the LSU OL frequently got beat against Florida and that’s something UGA is going to exploit. On top of all that, it’s the CBS game, and the true power of Tiger Stadium isn’t realized until the sun goes down. Nonetheless, LSU is now fighting for their playoff lives. They still have MSU, Bama and TAMU after UGA, so it’s absolutely possible to be in the conversation if they win. On the other hand, Georgia is very likely the SECe champ. If the unthinkable happens and LSU wins out, this could turn out to be a preview of the SECCG.

Backup Choice: #7 Washington @ #17 Oregon. (ABC) Because duh. With Stanford fallen, this is essentially deciding who will (likely) win the North.

(#15) Wisconsin at (#12) Michigan 1930 ET (1830 CT), ABC

The only top 25 match-up in prime-time is the obvious choice here. Michigan comes into the game strong favorites (8.5 at time of writing) but that seems too much too me. Wisconsin shows time and again the ability to hang in match-ups like this especially in big time games. Take Wisconsin and the points.

Backup Choice: It’s a cop out, but I’m falling back on my ol’ “Iowa State is always good for an upset” mantra. Keep an eye on (#6) WVU @ Iowa State (FS1) during prime-time.

(#19) Colorado @ Southern Cal 2230 ET (2130 CT), FS1

Colorado comes into this game atop the Pac-12 South and undefeated. Their Pac-12 victories are ASU and UCLA, so not cupcakes, but not juggernauts. Southern Cal on the other hand has two losses but to Stanford and Texas. So it’s an interesting match-up. We’ll get to see what both these teams are made of. It’s likely the 7 point favorite Trojans will be victorious, but Coloardo seems to be riding a team of destiny vibe at the moment. A great game to end the night.

Anchor Drop: Baseball releases SEC schedule

Hey! The Anchor Drop is back!

Good morning.

Okay, we’re done being lazy. The Anchor Drop is back just in time to announce the release of the baseball team’s 2019 SEC schedule. The Commodores will host Florida (March 22-24), Tennessee (March 29-31), Arkansas (April 12-14), Auburn (April 26-28), and Missouri (May 10-12.) Road series are at Texas A&M (March 15-17), Georgia (April 5-7), Alabama (April 19-21), South Carolina (May 3-5), and Kentucky (May 17-19.)

Vanderbilt junior WR Kalija Lipscomb was named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list, given to the nation’s top wide receiver. Through six games this season, Lipscomb has an SEC-leading 45 catches for 496 yards and six touchdowns.

Adam Sparks releases his Vanderbilt football report card for the first half of the season, in which the Commodores get the Gentleman’s C across the board.

Tweet of the Day

Off the West End

With MLB’s League Championship Series set, somebody associated with the Vanderbilt baseball program is guaranteed to win a World Series. In the ALCS, the Houston Astros (who have Tony Kemp) face the Boston Red Sox (hello, David Price.) On the NL side, it’s the Los Angeles Dodgers (Walker Buehler) and the Milwaukee Brewers (former pitching coach Derek Johnson.)

Two different SB Nation editorials: The Minnesota Timberwolves need Jimmy Butler, but they also should trade him. This makes sense.

Oh yeah, and a former AAU coach/Adidas consultant read a list of names under oath of former college basketball players whom he arranged payments to. Nothing to see here.

SEC Basketball Preview: Vanderbilt

Bryce Drew, pictured here smelling a fart.

This is where I preview Vanderbilt basketball like it’s just any old SEC team.

How Did We Get Here?

This is where, as your not-particularly-neutral basketball writer, I preview the Vanderbilt Commodores as though they are any other SEC team. Don’t worry, there will be plenty of more in-depth content coming. This is your 20,000-foot view.

Two years ago, Vanderbilt suckered Pitt into hiring Kevin Stallings to replace Jamie Dixon, and then hired former Valparaiso head coach Bryce Drew to replace him. With a team entirely recruited by Stallings, Drew went 19-16 in his first year — which doesn’t sound terribly impressive, but the Commodores did stick it to Jerry Palm by becoming the first team to ever make the NCAA Tournament with 15 regular-season losses.

And then they went 12-20 last year, the most losses in a season in Vanderbilt history. That sounds bad, and it is bad, but it’s a lot worse than it sounds. For one thing, the Commodores played a bunch of top 100 teams in nonconference play and lost to basically all of them, and the SEC was stronger than usual in 2017-18. Vanderbilt didn’t lose to a single team outside the KenPom top 100 in 2017-18; the problem was that they only played six games against such teams.

The basic problem with the 2017-18 edition of Vanderbilt basketball was that Stallings’ inattention to recruiting for most of the latter half of his tenure eventually led to a season like, well, that. The three seniors on the team, all 1000-point scorers (Jeff Roberson, Riley LaChance, and Matthew Fisher-Davis), did their part, but there were few defensive stoppers on the roster. In SEC play, the Commodores finished second in offensive efficiency — and 14th in defensive efficiency.

The good news, now, is that Vanderbilt has a top-ranked recruiting class entering, and Drew has managed to turn over most of the roster from the end of the Kevin Stallings era. This is Bryce Drew’s team now, and we get to see what they can do.

Backcourt

Let’s talk about the returning players first. Just two guards return from last year’s team, both sophomores. Saben Lee started the season as the backup to Larry Austin Jr. (remember him?), but after a 19-point performance in the second game of the season at Belmont, Lee moved into the starting lineup and ended the season starting 29 games; Austin transferred to Central Michigan for his final year of eligibility. Lee was hardly a finished product as a freshman — he averaged 2.4 turnovers per game and shot 30.7 percent from three, though he was good enough at finishing at the rim to average 10.6 ppg — but he showed enough upside to think he’ll continue to play a major role even with the deluge of talent entering the program.

Maxwell Evans, on the other hand, looked like a typical freshman: struggling to adjust to the speed of the college game and shooting just 35.8 percent; though he started 15 games, he only averaged 13 minutes per game. Evans will play a more muted role with the arrival of a couple of talented freshmen in the backcourt, though with a rather thin roster at guard he should still see minutes.

Aaron Nesmith, a 6’5” swingman from Charleston, is the lowest-ranked of the three incoming freshmen. There was a time when a player the caliber of Nesmith would be the most talented player in Vanderbilt’s freshman class and it wouldn’t even be close; in this class, Nesmith is almost an afterthought. But he’s a talented player in his own right, being named the Gatorade High School Player of the Year in South Carolina — a neat trick, considering Duke freshman sensation Zion Williamson was also a high school player in South Carolina last year. Nesmith will be the third guard on this team.

Oh yeah, and there’s Darius Garland. Garland spent about a week as the highest-rated recruit in the history of Vanderbilt basketball, and he might be the most important recruit that Vanderbilt has ever landed. For once, the recruit from Nashville whom everybody wanted decided to stay in Nashville and attend Vanderbilt.

Frontcourt

Joe Toye has spent three years as an enigma wrapped inside of a mystery, a 6’7” guy who can run and jump and who looks like he should be a good basketball player — but outside of a stretch late in his sophomore year, when he averaged 7.3 ppg in SEC play and shot 41.3 percent from beyond the arc, the overall product has been generally meh. As a junior, his outside shot completely disappeared — he shot 26.3 percent from three on the season, though that did tick up a bit in SEC play — and his production and minutes declined across the board. Still, it’s not unheard of for an athletic player who sticks around for four years to finally live up to his potential as a senior.

You can probably write a lot of that, too, about 6’8” junior Clevon Brown. (It’s probably not a huge coincidence that Toye and Brown are the two remaining Stallings recruits on the roster.) As a sophomore, Brown actually showed some upside as a defensive stopper — he averaged 3.2 blocks per 40 minutes and also functioned as one of the team’s better rebounders. The problem was that his offensive game was so raw that he couldn’t stay on the floor. While Brown did shoot 60.6 percent on two-pointers, he shot 23.9 percent beyond the arc — and insisted on taking 46 of his 112 shots on the season from back there. (He also shot 12-of-26 at the foul line.) And if Clevon Brown was kind of raw, Ejike Obinna looked like a guy who was still very new to the game of basketball — which, well, he is. The 6’10” sophomore averaged 8.5 fouls per 40 minutes and also provided a minimal defensive presence, blocking two shots all season. But he did have 14 points at Mississippi State, in a game where no one else showed up for Vanderbilt.

Interestingly, this is a situation where Vanderbilt’s two returning big men are still unproven while the freshman is pretty polished. Simisola Shittu, a 6’10”, 240-pound five-star recruit from Canada, will start from day one at Vanderbilt, and it’s not entirely because the incumbents are iffy. Shittu is the highest-ranked recruit in Vanderbilt history, and if you want a physical description, it’s “Djery Baptiste, but if he were good at basketball.” (He might even speak as many languages as Baptiste; I’m sure SEC Network commentators will let us know.)

Vanderbilt will also have two transfers, both juniors, eligible for the first time. Yanni Wetzell, originally from New Zealand, comes by way of St. Mary’s University in Texas — a Division II school where he averaged 15.5 ppg and 6.8 rpg as a sophomore and showed good polish. (Before you say “but it’s Division II,” think of it like a JUCO player with those numbers.) Matt Ryan (no, not that Matt Ryan) transferred from Notre Dame, where he spent two years as a three-point specialist — 206 of his 243 field goal attempts came from beyond the arc. And the 6’8” junior is pretty good at that, connecting on 39.8 percent of his career attempts.

Schedule

This is... not the nonconference schedule from the last two years. Vanderbilt does have a handful of marquee nonconference opponents on the schedule, including a road trip to Kansas State (which finished last year in the Elite Eight), a road trip to USC, a home game against Arizona State, and a neutral-site game against NC State in Miami. There’s also a road game at Oklahoma in the Big 12/SEC Challenge in January.

There are also nine home games, and aside from Arizona State, they range from a .500 team in the MAC (Kent State), three Big South teams (Winthrop, UNC Asheville, and Liberty), a couple of local schools with first-year coaches (Middle Tennessee and Tennessee State), and two teams that finished last season outside the KenPom top 300 (Alcorn State and Savannah State.) If Vanderbilt’s record entering January is any worse than 9-3, there are real problems.

Things step up in SEC play, though: the Commodores will draw their annual two-game series with Tennessee, Florida, and Kentucky. Vanderbilt could get off to a good start in conference play, though, with four of the first six games being at Memorial Gym (and one of the two road games being at what could be a bad Georgia team.)

Outlook

The questions about Bryce Drew following 2017-18 were probably a bit unfair, considering that he essentially got saddled with a lot of the recruiting misses from Kevin Stallings’ final years. Most of those are now gone, though, and Bryce Drew has his team in place.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that this is going to be a Top 25 team, though the upside is certainly that high. You don’t add two five-star freshmen and expect to be waiting a year or two for them to deliver, after all. A realistic expectation for this team is a NCAA Tournament bid and maybe winning a game.

This, again, is your 20,000-foot view. I promise individual player writeups between now and November 6. Get excited.

Ugly But Effective: UF Offense Preview

LSU v Florida Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Florida, the #14 team in the country is 5-1 after an upset of #5 LSU last week. Their only loss is to a resurgent (and probably #2 in the SEC East Kentucky). It is an unexpected start to the season under new head coach, Cousin Eddie Dan Mullen.

However, the success is in spite of a middle of the road offense. Mullen maximizes the tools in the toolbox and coaches them up to be in a position to compete. Against ranked opponents, UF has averaged 22 points. Against conference opponents, it’s a touchdown higher at 29 points (thanks a lot Tennessee!).

I have reams of writing on how much I hate the slimy Gators (I am an FSU grad after all).

But that will have to wait. Let’s let the numbers do the talking for how average this offense is.

UF is 43 in the S&P+ offense ranking. They are ranked 86 in Total offense with 6.2 yards per play and 380 yards per game and only 11 offensive touchdowns. That’s not good. But Mullen has schemed them to be successful in game situations knowing they cannot score in bunches against talented defenses.

For examples, against LSU, Mullen admitted to becoming more conservative in the 3Q in their own territory. UF was up only one, 14-13, and he knew Feleipe Franks is not a reliable passer so he could not risk losing field position.

Against LSU, UF was also very successful in the Red Zone. Their play calling had a 67% success rate. That means on first down, they reached 50% of the yards to gain; 70% on second down; 100% on third and fourth downs.

LSU v Florida Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

They rely heavily on the run. 208 carries vs 159 passing attempts. Franks is not a good passer completing 55% of his passes, so they don’t look to throw in the early downs. They have two back who split the carries, Jordan Scarlett and Lamical Perine.

Scarlett has 54 carries for 268 yards, averaging 5 ypc. He averages a respectable 4.5 ypc against conference teams but it drops to 3.6 against ranked teams. He doesn’t run away from opponents, but he does make the hard runs and can get chunk yardages of 11-19 yards at a time. Almost all of his runs have come on first and second down, 23 and 21 carries respectively.

Perine, a 5’11” 218lbs Junior, has 46 carries for 255 and 5.5 ypc. Unlike Scarlett, his ypc are consistent against ranked and conference teams at just over 5 ypc each. 21 of his carries have come on first down.

Franks is a good runner, especially in designed runs. Against LSU, Mullen added the speed option as a wrinkle to keep the defensive pass rush honest. Franks is 6’5” 227 lbs, so he is a big guy and can be difficult for defenders to bring down in the open field. Rushing stats can be difficult because sacks are counted against total rushing, but Franks has long runs of 21, 17, 11 yards, meaning he is effective with his legs.

LSU v Florida Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

UF has five WR’s with at least one touchdown, but only two of them have over 200 yards. The ball is distributed around. Freddie Swain has 10 receptions for 214 yards, and Van Jefferson has 16 receptions for 200 yards. No receiver has a 100 yards game. No receiver is targeted all that much over the other.

The UF offense can be difficult to watch and frustrating, if you are a fan. But Mullen has found an effective way to win games by keeping the ball on the ground, picking spots through the air, and eliminating turnovers (4 INTs, no fumbles lost).

Derek Mason has six games to save his job

A new athletic director has usually been bad news for the head football coach.

Halfway through the 2018 season, Derek Mason’s fifth at the helm of the Vanderbilt Commodores football program, the team sits at 3-3 overall and 0-2 in the SEC. In four and a half years, Mason has an overall record of 21-34 and an SEC record of 6-28.

Vanderbilt has traditionally given its head football coach a long leash, which means there are some questions about how much heat Mason is under right now. But eventually, even Vanderbilt gets tired of losing and makes a change. The question is — when? Today, we’re diving into historical records to figure out what factors have typically come into play when Vanderbilt finally decides to make a coaching change.

Almost everyone gets four years here.

Historically, if you’re hired as Vanderbilt’s head football coach, you’ll get four years to do your job — minimum. And usually five.

There have been two exceptions to the rule. We’ll get to Rod Dowhower — fired after back-to-back 2-9 seasons in 1996 — in a minute. Robbie Caldwell was, for all intents and purposes, an interim coach, even if Vanderbilt technically named him the permanent head coach during the 2010 season. The circumstances that led to Caldwell getting the job — Bobby Johnson’s sudden resignation a month or so before the season — meant that 2010 was effectively a one-year audition for Caldwell, which he failed badly.

The Bobby Johnson line

So, here’s a fun stat. Going back to the 1960s, Vanderbilt has finished nineteen seasons — 1969, 1975, 1982-84, 1991-93, 2005-09, and 2012-17 — with either a rolling two-year SEC win total of four or a rolling three-year SEC win total of six, and Vanderbilt did not voluntarily make a coaching change after any of those seasons. (Bobby Johnson retired after the 2009 season and James Franklin took the Penn State job after the 2013 season, but obviously both would have been allowed to return if they had wanted to.)

Historical precedent suggests that all that Vanderbilt really asks of the head football coach is to average two SEC wins per year. Hit that bar consistently, and you’ll keep your job. Fall below that bar after your fourth year, and you get fired. We’ll call this the Bobby Johnson line; after Johnson’s 2005 season — when Vanderbilt beat Tennessee for the first time in 23 years and nearly went to a bowl game — Johnson never dropped below this average over the preceding two or three years. (That out of conference losses to MTSU in 2005 and Wake Forest in 2007 denied the Commodores bowl trips in those years doesn’t appear to have come into play.)

On the other hand, George MacIntyre was forced out in 1985 as soon as both averages dropped below two: MacIntyre’s 4-2 SEC record in 1982 effectively kept him employed through an 0-6 1983 and a 2-4 1984, but a 1-4-1 1985 did him in. (The quick hook given to MacIntyre always baffled me, but Vanderbilt got outscored by an average of 19 ppg in SEC games in 1985 and would be outscored by nearly 20 ppg in SEC games in 1986, so it appears that Roy Kramer realized the program was hitting rock bottom.) Watson Brown and Woody Widenhofer, neither of whom ever hit the Johnson line, were both relieved after their respective fifth year.

If the Johnson rule holds, Derek Mason will keep his job if Vanderbilt wins at least two SEC games in 2018, which would put his three-year SEC win total at 6; three SEC wins would also put his two-year win total at 4. But winning one game (or zero games) the rest of the way would put him below the Johnson line. That Mason could keep his job with a 5-7 overall record might confuse some, but then you could also argue accurately that scheduling a road game against a top 10 team out of conference was a bad idea.

But there’s a complicating factor here...

A new Athletic Director has usually been bad news

Vanderbilt has changed athletic directors four times since 1978, not counting this year, and three of the four new athletic directors have replaced the football coach within their first year on the job — and those account for both of the occasions when Vanderbilt has violated the unwritten “every coach gets five years” rule.

Roy Kramer took over as athletic director in 1978, and one of his first moves later that year was to relieve Fred Pancoast. Pancoast may well have been fired under any circumstance — he hadn’t won an SEC game in three years, after all, and the team’s average losing margins were actually getting worse, not better — but Kramer showed him the door after just four years in Nashville.

Paul Hoolahan took over in 1990 after Kramer became SEC commissioner, though Kramer probably wouldn’t have let Watson Brown survive a second straight 1-10 season, either.

The real exception, though, came when Todd Turner replaced Hoolahan, who resigned in late 1995. Hoolahan’s disastrous tenure as AD saw both a football coach (Gerry DiNardo, whom he hired) and a men’s basketball coach (Eddie Fogler, who was hired by Roy Kramer) leave for other jobs; in the latter case, Fogler left for arguably a lateral move to South Carolina shortly after being named the National Coach of the Year. To replace them, Hoolahan brought in Rod Dowhower and Jan van Breda Kolff. Those two sentences should be a pretty good summation of Hoolahan’s tenure as AD.

Anyway, Turner took over as AD in 1996 and while Dowhower was only in his second year, it was pretty obvious that hiring him had been a mistake and Turner pulled the plug pretty quickly. The point is, having a new AD has usually coincided with a coaching change.

And we’re left to wonder, too, if James Franklin raised the bar enough that even hitting the Johnson line is enough any more. We will see.

Around the League: Week 6

We’re back, and with updates about the games you may have missed.

Utah 40 @ (#14) Stanford 21

Utah absolutely exploded Saturday in their road win over Stanford. Stanford, missing RB Bryce Love, could not move the ball at all on the ground. Collectively, they ran for 42 yards across 4 ball carriers. K.J. Costello was the bulk of the offense, throwing for 381 yards, but threw two picks (one a 100-yard by Jaylon Johnson). Stanford would only get on the board in the final moments of the first half to make it 24-7, and even a 14 point rally in the third wasn’t enough to motivate the team to come back. Utah roared right back with 16 unanswered points, aided by forcing two fumbles. At the end of the day Utah took advantage of each and every mistake Stanford made, and once again shows what happens when you cannot control the ball.

(#6) Notre Dame 45 @ (#24) Virginia Tech 23

The story of this game is a story of depth. Virginia Tech struggled all game to finish drives, but it got very apparent in the second half of the game. Going into the third, the game was only 17-16, but the Hokies simply coudn’t get anything going. Their first four drives ended with a Vanerbiltian two punts and two missed FGs. Drive after drive stalled crossing midfield, as Notre Dame turned on the gas. They scored four touchdowns on their first five drives of the second half. The Notre Dame team out there now is worlds better than the one we played, and it’s in no small part to the QB change they made. Ian Book may have only thrown for 271 yards but the whole offense has gotten better with him under center. While most years I’m annoyed at the press hype about the Irish, this year it’s deserved.

(#19) Texas 48 @ (#7) Oklahoma 45

The Red River Shootout rarely disappoints. Down 45-24 with mere seconds to go in the third, most people likely turned off the game to find something else. They missed a helluva comeback. After trading punts, the Sooners corrected their more than 50 minutes of lackluster play with a seven minute campaign scoring 3 TDs on three drives of 6, 1, and 3 plays. In turn, Texas went three and out on two of three drives and only moved the ball 20 yards on the other. Texas got the ball with 2:38 remaining and a tie game. A nine play drive followed, ending with a Texas 40-yard FG to end it. Beyond this tale though is again the message that turnovers ruin everything. The Sooners fumbled and threw a pick at inopportune moments while Texas never turned the ball over. Mistakes that ended up costing them in the long run.

Florida State 27 @ (#17) Miami 28

If there’s ever a time where I will cheer for the Noles, it is when they play Miami. Especially when a garbage FSU team is playing a top 25 ranked Miami squad. Florida State absolutely dominated Miami most of the game. After a 75 yard punt return to the house the Noles were up 27-7 and it seemed like the game was all but over. The FSU defense was doing a marvelous job of keeping Miami in check, and the FSU offense, while being its usual mediocre self, was getting enough points. Then Deondre Francois fumbled on the FSU 20, setting up a Miami touchdown. Francois would follow it up with a pick two plays later which also would set up a Miami touchdown. FSU would get a chance with 12:42 left to kick a FG, but they’d miss. Miami would respond with a four play 73 yard drive for the last points of the game. The rest of the game was a cripple fight of 4-5 play drives. Neither team looked terribly impressive Saturday, and we once again saw that Miami is more lucky than it is good.

(#5) LSU 19 @ (#22) Florida 27

You’d think I’d be used to this from my admittedly paltry 12 years of watching LSU football, but LSU WRs always seem schizophrenic. They can make insane one handed circus catches but hit them in the numbers and it bounces to the turf. This was never more apparent as Joe Burrow hit two receivers on the final LSU drive and both passes fell to the turf. One of these passes hitting Justin Jefferson in the hands on an admittedly high throw along the sidelines. The other hitting Stephen Sullivan right in the chest and it was just dropped. LSU simply couldn’t get it going at all following their 7-0 start. Joe Burrow honestly played most of the game in the way he’s been playing most of the year. Good solid passes with just enough to take pressure off the running game. Unfortunately, his first pick of the year came at the worst possible time, throwing a pick-6 to LSU’s own 25 yard line in a 19-20 game. The INT would be taken to the house and seal LSU’s fate. In the end LSU was beaten in all the little things and they added up to a loss. Because Vanderbilt cannot have anything nice, Florida is finding its stride.

(#13) Kentucky 14 @ Texas A&M 20

I didn’t watch a snap of regulation, and looking at the play by play, I’m glad I didn’t. It frankly looks like an absolute punt-fest and very little in the way of sustained drives. What I do wanna talk about though here is that Stoops apparently has about as much control over his offense as Mason. 3rd and 2 in OT, Kentucky opts to go for a passing play with guys open on the flats. That’s right. Third and two and they didn’t give the ball to Snell. Insane. So insane that Stoops himself seemed confused about it. It’s on you Mark. But if the playcall was stupid, QB Terry Wilson is even more stupid for taking a sack in a situation like that. UK would miss a 43-yarder and Aggie would respond with a quick four play touchdown.

Missouri 35 @ South Carolina 37

I was at a wedding reception Saturday afternoon at a local brewery. This game was on and I just was laughing at how much rain there was everywhere. The stadium itself started leaking. Really I’m just posting this to remind y’all that we still gotta play Mizzou and blame it on the rain all you want, but they were able to hang with Carolina.

Vanderbilt Men’s Golf Wrapping Up Fall Season

The Vanderbilt Men’s Golf Team finished second at the Nike Collegiate Invitational held at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas. The tournament was held September 30-October 2, and it is the penultimate tournament for the Fall season.

Over three days, the ‘Dores shot a team score of 844, or +4 to par. They were led by Mason Greenberg with an opening round of 66. It was a bogey free round with three birdies on the front nine and one on the back.

In the final round, Patrick Martin shot 67 carding five birdies on the day, but also had two bogeys.

The scoring average for the team’s remaining 13 rounds was 71.8. The Commodores slipped during the second round where no one scored better than a 71. However, on the shoulders of Martin, the team jumped three spots to finish second by two shots.

The NCAA golf season is split into two seasons, Fall and Spring. The Fall season is a continuation of Summer singles play, whereas the Spring is championship season.

The ‘Dores had a distinguished Summer season where four qualified for the US Amateur, with three making the round of 32 and Will Gordon advancing to the Quarterfinals. Additionally, John Augenstein won the Players Amateur and was named the Southern Golf Association’s Amateur Golfer of the month for July. He finished top ten in 7 of 8 tournaments during the summer, going back to NCAA individual stroke play and rose to the a World Amateur Golf Ranking of 22.

Managing two seasons may sound difficult, but head coach Scott Limbaugh says each season has distinct goals and purposes.

“ In the Fall you are trying to see what the team can become, who is going to step up. It is also the back end of a very long golf season for our guys as they are coming in from a summer schedule so managing them physically is important. The spring is fun to start fresh, energized, and knowing the championship season is right around the corner so there is a new sense of urgency.”

When scores are up and down, I asked Coach Limbaugh if he or his players target a score to shoot for. He responded, “[We] never think about certain scores for the team or individuals. Before the event, I will ask some of the guys what they think may win individually just so I can get a feel for how scoring will be. However, I am not a scoreboard watcher because in my opinion it just creates limitations. Our goal is to be the best we can be each day out.”

As the season moves on and it becomes apparent a player is struggling with a part of their game, the desire to fix it can be tempting. “We are always focused on short game in season—wedging, chipping, and putting. If there are more full swing things that need to be done we will focus more on that during the winter months/ off season.”

The Commodores will finish their Fall season on October 23 in Windermere, FL, at the Tavistock College Invitational held at Isleworth Golf Club. It is a three day tournament starting on the 21st. They will compete against conference foes like Florida, South Carolina, Auburn, and LSU. As well, they will put the peg in the ground against perennial powers like Texas, Arizona State, Illinois, and host UCF.

Jordan Rodgers Reconnects to Talk Football, Vanderbilt and His Favorite Breakfast

Anchor of Gold Catches Up With Former Vanderbilt QB And Current Bachelor Sensation Jordan Rodgers to talk Football, Breakfast and the Bachelorette

When I got the opportunity to interview Jordan Rodgers last week, I bet you can imagine how this Bachelor-loving girl reacted. That’s right. I was completely professional and grateful for the opportunity, didn’t fangirl at all and wanted to keep my line of questioning light and within scope.

No, really, that’s exactly how it went. I was more excited to ask about football and the SEC than about what it was like going on reality TV to find love (and successful love, at that!). Sure, I watched the entire season and I was outright TORN when the love of my life Ben Higgins got rejected, but I guess that just means he’s still available for me, right? Right??

Anyway, I caught up with Jordan Rodgers and got his take on a few things Bachelor, breakfast and football related, and it was quite the pleasant interaction. And no, I didn’t ask about that cringe-worthy mac-and-cheese commercial.

I wanted to ask the hard-hitting questions first, the ones that are buzzing our brains here at Anchor of Gold and all across Vandy nation: “How’s Jojo?” Jordan laughed. Of COURSE we’re concerned about our favorite Bachelorette. “My fiancé is doing great,” he replied laughing, “She’s eating Pringles and laughing so she’s doing great.” ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ It’s a legitimate concern! I congratulated him on the upcoming nuptials and confirmed we can’t wait to hear when more details come out.

Now, onto the real talk. How has been the transition from College football, to Professional football, to The Bachelorette, and back into sports as an SEC Network analyst?

“It’s an interesting one. You don’t really realize when you come from a sports background, because you think fans are crazy when you deal with the fans in the stadium and fans of the teams, and then you get a taste of reality TV fans, and you’re like, those sports fans were nothing!” Ok Jordan, we’re with ya on this one. You drop a pass in the NFL, you might get a few hundred “you suck” mentions on Twitter, but you threaten to punch someone every episode for 10 straight weeks, like our favorite love-to-hate villain Chad, Bachelor nation is pretty unforgiving. “But it’s been great balancing the two and having a lot of fans of both.”

But back to football, who in the SEC is the most likely to come out of the woodworks to beat Bama this year?! “Well it’s always gonna be Georgia!” Aww, boo. I was hoping to hear Auburn, maybe even LSU. “I think Kentucky made a bit of a statement coming out of Mississippi State, I don’t think a lot of us saw that coming, at least as dominant as they were, so they could compete with Georgia.” Ok, ok, I’m with ya Jordan, Kentucky coming up out of nowhere. Sure I can get on board with that. “But I really don’t see anybody competing with Alabama, though. I think this is the best Alabama team we’ve seen in the best decade— most powerful on offense, most balanced they’ve ever been. Unfortunately, I know we all want to see competition, but I don’t really see it this year.”

Ok, competition, sure: let’s talk about Vandy! Because we all know the competition they provide.

The last time Jordan Rodgers was with Vanderbilt, he had Jordan Matthews making plays and the two were pretty good together. So I was curious if Jordan had kept in touch with Jordan Matthews at all.

“Yeah! J-Matt is a good bud, I did his charity event at Vanderbilt this offseason, we keep in touch. It’s good to see him back with the Eagles now.”

You guys did so well together at Vanderbilt, and now doing charity events—any possibility of a future show with the two Jordans together on SEC Network?! (After J-Matt’s long and prosperous career with the Eagles is over, of course.)

“Funny—he’d be great! If it’s what he wants to do, I would love to work with J-Matt, he was always one of the funnier guys on the team. If he wants to come on over, I’d welcome him with open arms.” Ok, SEC Network, when you get the Jordan and Jordan show, I want all the credit. “Then I’d have a former teammate in Jordan Matthews from football, and also a former colleague and Bachelor guy in Jesse Palmer, it would kinda come full circle!” Jenn Greening: the content maker.

Now we had to get into breakfast. If you didn’t know, Jordan Rodgers went head to head against Jesse Palmer and Maria Taylor for the Holiday Inn Express Breakfast READIEST Challenge— which Jordan won with his veggie omelet as the kicker. “It was a lot of fun—me and Jesse and Maria did a Chopped! style competition, so for me, if I could just put everything you would want into a breakfast sandwich, then I knew I could win this.”

He had the sausage, the bacon, the eggs, and thought it might be a little heavy, so he added the veggie omelet for those of us who are health conscious. Thanks for not forgetting us vegetarians, Jordan.

While it looked like a lot of fun, it sounds like Holiday Inn Express is the place to stay when traveling to see Vanderbilt play, or any other SEC team, with their all American breakfast options. Apparently you can sign up and get 15% off your stay thanks to our beloved Jordan Rodgers. And who couldn’t use a heart breakfast before a big day of tailgating and cheering on your favorite SEC teams?

Vanderbilt can’t hang with Georgia in second half

A promising start was done in by dumb penalties and Georgia asserting its dominance in the second half.

In the first half of Saturday night’s game against Georgia, Vanderbilt seemed to have the right game plan to at least put a scare into the Bulldogs. After the teams traded punts on their first drives, Vanderbilt got down the field in a hurry after a 43-yard run by Ke’Shawn Vaughn, but had to settle for a field goal after Khari Blasingame got stuffed on 3rd-and-1 at the Georgia 5.

That was the story of the first half. Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig’s oft-criticized ball control offense was working in the first half, except when it wasn’t. Vanderbilt had a 12-play, 81-yard drive that drained 7:36 off the clock — and ended it with no points when Blasingame couldn’t quite move the chains on a 4th-and-1 run. An 11-play, 51-yard drive took 5:31 off the clock and ended with a 42-yard field goal by Ryley Guay. Still, while Georgia hit a couple of big plays to score touchdowns, Vanderbilt found itself down just 14-6 with a couple of minutes left in the first half.

And then the dream died. Georgia’s Jake Fromm needed just 1:04 to move his team 75 yards and score a touchdown to make it 21-6 heading into halftime. The Bulldogs got the ball to start the second half — a fact that appeared to be lost on Vanderbilt when the Commodores decided to call a couple of vanilla run plays to run out the clock after taking over with 1:14 left in the first half — and promptly unleashed an 8-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that made the score 28-6 and effectively ended any hope that Vanderbilt had of winning the game or even keeping things interesting. And the offensive fire that was present in the first half dissipated after halftime; Vanderbilt’s first three drives of the second half saw the Commodores run 10 plays that netted a grand total of 21 yards. The Commodores’ lone touchdown of the game came with two seconds left, after backup QB Mo Hasan led a drive against Georgia’s backups and Josh Crawford found the end zone from two yards out.

Vanderbilt was always going to have to play a perfect game to have a prayer against Georgia, and the Commodores played nothing close to that. Vanderbilt had four (!) illegal formation penalties, which is something that’s barely acceptable for a middle school football team, much less one that plays college football in the Southeastern Conference. Vanderbilt was penalized nine times for 69 yards and went 3-for-12 on third down, and 0-for-1 on fourth down.

(And let’s not talk about Kyle Shurmur appearing to come up hurt after getting hit in a game that was already 41-6. Let’s just not.)

Game 6: Commodores at Bulldogs

Hey! We’re gonna lose!

Vanderbilt Commodores (3-2, 0-1 SEC) at Georgia Bulldogs (5-0, 3-0 SEC)

When: 6:30 PM CT, Saturday, October 6, 2018

Where: Sanford Stadium, Athens, Georgia

TV: SEC Network/WatchESPN

Radio: Vanderbilt IMG Sports Network

Well... this doesn’t sound fun.

Vanderbilt goes on the road to play the #2-ranked Georgia Bulldogs, who have won their first five games of the season, including three SEC wins over South Carolina, Missouri, and Tennessee by a combined score of 122-58. The Bulldogs are favored by 26.5 points in this one.

Of course, the last time the Commodores went to Athens, they won 17-16. So maybe we can catch lightning in a bottle again? I don’t know. In any case, we’re probably going to lose this one. Drink away, and Anchor Down.

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