This is the second installment of my 2006 season previews and predictions.
September 9, 2006
Alabama opens conference play at home against perennial SEC doormat Vanderbilt in week two of the season.
2005 saw Vanderbilt threaten to qualify for a bowl game for the first time since 1982 (they lost 28-36 to Air Force in the now defunct Hall of Fame Bowl.) Nashville was buzzing after the Commodores started the season 4-0 with wins over Wake Forest, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Division I-AA Richmond. They then dropped six in a row (including Middle Tennessee State and Kentucky) before astonishingly defeating a lackluster Tennessee at Neyland Stadium to end up with a 5-6 record.
Can Vanderbilt's offense produce without Jay Cutler?
Now that NFL-Draft-prognosticator-darling Jay Cutler has moved onto the pros, Vanderbilt has a big QB shaped hole in their offense. The pundits in the preseason magazines had the starting job up for grabs between sophomore Chris Nickson and redshirt freshman Mackenzi Adams, but the recent transfer of Arizona QB Richard Kovalcheck to Vanderbilt provides them with another option. Kovalcheck started the first seven games of Arizona's 2005 campaign, but he eventually lost his starting job to a freshman. The QB position seems up in the air at this point.
Vanderbilt's coaching staff believes their offensive line and receiving corps will keep them competitive this fall. The defense, however, should quell their enthusiasm. The Commodores were ranked 11th in total defense in the SEC last year and they'll likely do about the same in '06. They lost All-SEC linebacker Moses Osemwegie and are unlikely to fill his shoes so soon.
Molly Sims was pursuing a law degree at Vandy when she got offered a modeling contract.
Alabama hasn't lost to Vanderbilt since 1984 and I don't see 2006 being the year the streak is broken. The Tide has won their last ten meetings by an average of 13.8 points and given the kinks that will still likely be in the Bama offense in week two, that margin of victory sounds about right.
Alabama leads the all-time series 56-19-4 (.709). Ray Perkins was head coach of Alabama the last time Vanderbilt upset the Tide (both teams were 5-6 that year.)
Predicted record after this game: (2-0)
Vandy: A Commodore 64 team in a G5 league.