Was Vanderbilt Good This Year? A look back at the Commies’ Season
In August of 2012 I broke down what I anticipated to be the 10 Biggest Storylines in the SEC. This is the fourth of ten looks back at those topics. Also, I realize how cruel and unusual the punishment of two Vanderbilt Articles in one day is. It’s harder on me than it is on you. And it’s Friday.
The Rise of Vanderbilt?
James Franklin is a hot-head. Not the Missouri quarterback; the Vanderbilt coach. He spent the bulk of his first season (2011) being petty and the entirety of last summer saying things along the lines of, “Vanderbilt isn’t Vanderbilt anymore! We are Vanderbilt!!!” and “This ain’t your pop’s Vanderbilt football team. This is your granddaddy’s son’s Vanderbilt team, baby!”
I hated it. When I wrote about Vanderbilt in August I pointed out that I found little merit in Vandy’s six wins in 2011 (Elon, Ole Miss, UConn Army, Kentucky, Wake Forest) and that I thought Vandy caught a few teams (like Georgia) by surprise and bamboozled their way into some close games by simply being prepared – but not necessarily good.
I summarized the 2012 outlook for the Commodores this way:
For Vanderbilt to win games this season they will have to be the better team – not just the team that is the most prepared. And, there is a difference. Coach James Franklin will draw every opponent’s best effort this season, and I bet he’s fired up about that for three reasons:
1. It’s a sign that 2011 went well for him and his first Vanderbilt squad.
2. Any wins this year will hold the value of “Vandy was the better team” not merely “Vandy snuck up on them today.”
3. He thinks Vanderbilt can win against anyone.
Is Franklin right or will Vanderbilt be put back in their place this season? I refuse to live in a world where James Franklin is right, and I’ll just leave it at that.
I hate James Franklin and I recognize this bias, but I’m still conflicted to an extent on Vanderbilt. Were they better this year than they were in 2011? Abso-freaking-lutely. But, they seem to be drawing upon another consistent trend: over-hype. After last season folks talked about Vandy as if they were a top-25 team in 2011, which they weren’t. Now that they are in the top-25, I can’t help but wonder, are they really one of the 25 best? And that’s the dark, Fanklin-hating place where the conflict stems from.
Obviously, it’s hard to forget Georgia’s 45-point thrashing of the Commodores in the midst of four games (Florida Atlantic before, Tennessee, South Carolina and Kentucky after) that were utterly uninspiring. If you witnessed that game (especially within the context of those surrounding games) it’s probably hard for you to reconcile Vanderbilt as a legitimate top-25 team as well.
On the other hand, I don’t know that points really matter in the grand scheme of things and it’s hard to discount Vanderbilt based on their losses to teams that finished ranked 4th (Georgia), 7th (South Carolina), 10th (Florida) and 16th (Northwestern) in the final Coaches Poll. It’s even hard to nit-pick those losses when they all occurred prior to the middle of October.
And yet, can you garner much from wins against these teams: Presbyterian (little league), UMass (arguably the worst team in the country), Wake Forest and NC State (combined 7-9 in ACC play), and Missouri, Auburn, Kentucky, Ole Miss and Tennessee (combined 6-34 SEC record)? Probably not.
When you compare Vanderbilt to Georgia the picture becomes a bit clearer. Both played relatively soft SEC schedules, but there is still room for distinction. Vanderbilt played four games against teams in the final top-25, Georgia played five. Vanderbilt went 0-4 in those games, Georgia went 3-2. Oh yeah, and Georgia beat the tar out of Vanderbilt.
What is the true value of the gap between those resumes? I’m not sure. The Coaches Poll says 16 spots in the rankings, the AP says 18. I think those gaps are too narrow.
But then again, I hate James Franklin.
That’s all I got/