I cannot begin to explain how painful it has been to research and write this one. Let’s get through it quickly so we can move back to the ‘intriguing teams’ category.
What Happened Last Year?
James Franklin proved, by moving on to Penn State, that he had done about as much good at Vanderbilt as possible. His replacement, Derek Mason, oversaw a 30-point home loss to Temple in the first game of his career, and was quoted at Media Days two weeks ago with the following statement:
I assumed we’d play like an SEC team…but we didn’t.
Not exactly confidence-inspiring stuff from the head man. The one SEC team they did play like? Historical Vanderbilt, but maybe a little worse. Their three wins came against UMass, Charleston Southern, and Old Dominion…by a combined 18 points. They saw four QB’s get starts and significant game action. They were outgained by 380 yards early against Ole Miss, 245 by Kentucky in the middle of the season, and 274 late against Mississippi State.
There is nothing to indicate that things will be any better this year, as 18 returning starters to a crap team makes a crap team just slightly better.
Three Key Games
When you’re this bad, they’re all important.
Sept. 5, Western Kentucky: Yeah, I’m serious. This, Austin Peay (Sept. 19), and at Middle Tennessee (Oct. 3) are the only truly winnable games for Vandy, and I’m including a trip to Houston and home dates with Kentucky and Missouri in the ‘sure loss’ category.
Oct. 17, at South Carolina: Hey, maybe they can get lucky and grease the wheels on Steve Spurrier’s departure.
Nov. 28, at Tennessee: Prediction is that this’ll be Mason’s last game before being canned.
Five Players to Watch
You know that scene in Breaking Bad where Lydia meets Mike at the diner and they don’t have any of her usual drinks? This is the Vanderbilt roster.
Enjoy your hot water, Lydia.
Ralph Webb, RB: The sophomore is the team leader, according to linebacker Nigel Bowden. Can’t tell you if that’s a good thing or not.
Johnny McCrary, QB: Something I notice in looking at this roster: there are 7 true sophomores listed in bold and caps, meaning they’re returning starters from last year. So…Mason took something that worked, recruits that were GREAT for Vanderbilt…and started his own guys instead? 31 of them? Yeah, 3-9 is starting to make more sense.
Nigel Bowden, LB: The sophomore (yeah, Mason brought two to media days) led the team in tackles with 78 in 2014.
Colby Cooke, P: Hall and I accurately predicted that Cooke would win the Vanderbilt punter battle on last year’s preview podcast, and his efforts made absolutely no discernible difference.
Stephen Scheu, TE: He’s a name I recognize, as the senior was the Commodores’ leading receiver last year, as well as– get this– a 2nd-team All-SEC performer! How about it?
In closing, I’m done. Yuck.
This series focuses on my favorite posts of all time. Lest I be labeled as overly arrogant, please note: 1. This was new DYC Editor-in-Chief Chad Floyd’s idea. 2. These are my “favorite” posts not my “best” posts. I don’t have “best” posts, because that would imply that I had better posts and good posts to begin with. For the rest of the Dude’s Top 10 Countdown, click here.
Mark Richt gets dumped on by a lot of idiots who think he’s average but do not know the definition of average. I’m a Richt apologist in as much as I recognize that he is a damn good coach (though not the best in the country) and that being damn good is fitting for a program that has not always been damn good.
In this post I take a look at Richt’s legacy.
Is he mediocre? Is he average? How does he stack up to coaches and programs nationally? Read it, fools.
That’s all I got/
For the rest of the Dude’s Top 10 Countdown, click here.
Good for you. The feeling’s not mutual.
If you’ve been following, we’ve made it through 4 1/2 of the power 5 conferences in the ‘Know Your Other Conferences/#SECPreviews’ series. I’m going to try to half-ass it through (spoiler alert) Vanderbilt and Kentucky in a post tomorrow, but wanted to get the readers that have been slowly trickling back to DudeYouCrazy over the past few weeks caught up.
6/30: The whole damn thing.
Plenty more to come, but not Notre Dame!
My philosophy on Alabama, a team that has spent oneweek ranked outside of the top 10 in the past five years.
What Happened Last Year?
The most notable thing, to me, was the continued erosion of the defense, especially through the air. They set seven-year per-game highs in points allowed (18.4), total yards (328– the first time in that span they’ve been over 287), and passing yards (226, highest since 189 back in 2008). Not that those are bad numbers at all, but it signifies a trend in the wrong direction as the SEC becomes more and more offensive.
On the other hand, their offense set a Saban-era high in yards per game at 485 under Lane Kiffin. Nick Saban was outspoken in his criticism of Kiffin not running the ball enough, but the numbers across the board were consistent with or better than his predecessors outside of turnover margin, which was in the negatives for the first time since Saban’s first year.
So why the Rick Flair above? To be the man, you’ve tot to beat the man, and they were a timely Senquez Golson interception away from another steamrolling of the SEC. But they showed more cracks than in previous years. Arkansas came within a point. Tennessee covered the spread for the first time in 5 years. LSU took them to overtime. Mississippi St. was within a score in Tuscaloosa.
Those still go down as wins in the record books, thus Alabama is still the odds-on favorite for the nation’s strongest division.
The BCS Semifinal loss to Ohio State? Well, the SEC is 0-1 all time in the CFP. Thanks, Alabama.
Three Key Games
This is pretty easy.
Oct. 3 at Georgia: Not so much key because of the standings implications, as its realistically the least important from that standpoint. But it’ll be a young offense’s (three returning starters) first road test, and I’m biased.
Nov. 7, LSU: Les Miles has been as close to a foil for the Saban-era Crimson Tide as there has been. This game is annual appointment watching for me, because good defensive football is a lost art. Bama has won 4 straight and 6 of 8, but (insert cheesy rivalry commentary here).
Nov. 28, at Auburn: Auburn has the formula to score points on Alabama downpat. Does game 12 of the Will Muschamp D prove to be enough to beat the more talented Tide at home? I’m thinking yes.
Five Key Players
– Derrick Henry, HB: Breaking in a new QB? Not as big an issue, when every one of your O-linemen ranked in the top 10 at their respective positions coming out of high school, and you have a 6’3, 240 manchild to whom you can hand the ball.
– O.J. Howard, TE: I can’t really explain what happened to Howard last year, outside of the fact that Kiffin just doesn’t like throwing to the tight end. But…
I mean. You’ve got to find a way to get 6’6 250 with speed to outrun the entire LSU secondary the ball. Per resident Tide friend Evan: “Having O.J. Howard last year was like owning a Lamborghini and only driving it in school zones.”
– Jonathan Allen, DE: This is what happens with Alabama guys. They come in as ballyhooed recruits, sit behind older ballyhooed recruits, you forget about them, and they become All-SEC. That’s what happened to Allen last year, as he finished with 5.5 sacks and 7 QBH, pretty impressive for a 3-4 end. He’s back as part of a D-line that returns all but one guy from its two-deep.
– Reuben Foster, ILB: Replacing Trey DePriest’s production (and apparently leadership, the greatest of intangibles) is going to be tough. What better guy to do it than the Alabama player famous for an Auburn tattoo?
– Adam Griffith, K: The guy who kicked the kick-six actually had a decent (?) year last year, his first as the full-time starter. I want to see him forced to exorcise some late-game demons though. Just for fun.
So, Bama has the toughest SEC schedule this year, with UT and Georgia crossing over. I think this is a year where the strength of the SEC West works against itself, and you have a little bit more parity and unpredictability. Get educated on SEC tiebreaker rules, because I think 6-2 is going to be the number to win the SEC West.