If, like Hack, your mind has shut down this week at the thought of reading up on Vandy, let me sum up: Offense=Scary, Defense=Defense? We don't need no stinking defense!. Now that we're all on the same page, let's take a look at Vandy's schedule and see just how likely a bowl bid might be for the Commodores.
Get used to the confines of home, 'Dores, since you won't be traveling much this year.
For the first time in school history, Vanderbilt has eight home games, with half those coming during the first four weeks of play. Unlike last season, when Vandy opened it's season on the road at Michigan and at Alabama, the 'Dores have a manageable early season stretch with visits from creamy cupcakes 1-AA Richmond and Eastern Michigan, plus upset prone Alabama and Ole Miss squads sandwiched in between.
Those eight home games are one of the reasons I (boneheadedly?) predicted a bowl bid for Vandy back in May, and probably one of the reasons Vandy fans and players are looking at ending the Commodore's lengthy bowl drought. Here's a quick look at the schedule, and some thoughts on how the season might play out:
|The 1-AA Richmond Spiders (why do the 1-AA teams have awesome mascots while we're stuck with every variation of Tiger and Bulldog there is?) opened the 2006 season with a 13-0 upset win over the ACC's Duke, a team our own beloved Tide barely got past in Tuscaloosa, and that Vandy would beat six weeks later 45-28. The Spiders went on to post a 6-5 record while missing the playoffs, and aren't likely to give a repeat upset performance this year. Win for Vandy, 1-0.|
|Last year's contest in Tuscaloosa was a frustrating several hours of nailbiting for the Tide, as Alabama's red zone woes manifested themselves in spectacular fashion. It was also Leigh Tiffin's last moment in the sun, as his field goal midway through the fourth was the deciding factor in the contest. This is a trap game for a Tide defense still feeling it's way through the new schemes, and a golden opportunity for the Vandy offense to win one for the home crowd. As much as I hate to say it, possible upset for Vandy, but I can't pick against the Tide. 1-1.|
|Vandy held the Rebels to a sub 200 yard game last season, but still managed to leave Oxford with a loss after a Chris Nickson injury and a perfect storm of turnovers and special teams mistakes gave Ole Miss the field position edge, with both of their TDs coming on drives that started deep in Vandy territory. I don't see that happening again in Nashville, though, so let's say this is a Vandy win. 2-1.|
|The Eagles won one game last year, and are perennial bottom dwellers in the MAC. This is a Vandy win. 3-1.|
|Amusingly, The Teagles are the only team in the SEC with a non-winning (and let's be honest, non-winning=losing) record against Vandy, as the series stands at 19-19-1. As much as I'd love an upset on the plains, it looks like this is the year the Teagles get the go ahead win. 3-2|
|After the shock upset in Athens last year, an older and much improved UGA will be looking for sweet (drunken?) revenge in Nashville, and they'll more than likely get it. 3-3|
|A lot of people have the 'Cocks as a dark horse contender for the East this year, and with good cause. Spurrier is working his magic up there, and though they'll probably never set the conference ablaze like his Gators teams did in the 90s, they'll claim the middle while scaring the bejeezus out of the upper crust on a regular basis. 3-4, and the season starts to slip away.|
|Another bottom dwelling MAC team (the Redhawks won TWO games last year. Take that EMU!), another win for Vandy. 4-4.|
|We all remember the "controversial celebration call" from 2005, and the Gators are ripe for a letdown after their National Championship season. I want to got out on a limb here, but this will probably be another frustratingly close loss. 4-5.|
|After Kentucky's surprising bowl win (and, quite frankly, bowl bid) last season, the 'Cats are looking like teh new hottness in the "hey, they aren't that bad" department, but I'm going to say homefield advantage gives the 'Dores the edge this time around. Last year's match produced 1,268 yards of total offense as Woodson and Nickson threw for over 400 yards. The difference, of course, was Nickson's two picks, something that Vandy has a hope of making up for this year. Look for a similar offensive display as Vandy wins in a shoot out. 5-5.|
|Vandy returns to the site of their last best win, the 2005 upset that kept UT from becoming bowl eligible and was the first Vandy victory over UT since 1982. UT put things back together last year, but a questionable secondary makes me think Earl Bennett could have another banner day on Rocky Top. If this is the win that gets Vandy bowl eligible, then it will be extra sweet for the 'Dores, so I'll call this one Vandy, 6-5. Taste the Shreveport, Commies. Taste it..|
|Wake Forest has turned into a solid, if unspectacular, football team under Jim Grobe, and it somehow seems appropriate for Vandy and Wake to have an ongoing series. The black and gold unis, the decidedly old school mascots...it just feels right. Anyway, Wake was a decent team that won the ACC in a conference down year to grab some limelight and BCS exposure, but they'll likely fall back to the middle of the pack this year. Still, they've developed a rep for hardnose play and could give Vandy fits all day. Vandy won the season opener in Winston-Salem in 2005, but I imagine Wake will get the season closer this year. 6-6.|
So there you have it, I'm on record predicting a 6-6 year for Vandy. After this season, we'll have to see how big of a genius or (and?) bonehead I really am. Tomorrow the guys at Vanderbilt Sportsline will chime in to agree, disagree, or possibly throw things over this week's assessment of their beloved Commodores.