Vanderbilt Commodores Punch Through The Second Half Of Season
College football is a VERY SHORT three months long. Then you have December aka BOWL MONTH, if your team is good enough you will get an extra game in. If your team is really good, you will get to ride football season into January with the college football playoffs and the National Championship.
The Vanderbilt Commodores came out swinging in their first three games of the season. Junior quarterback Kyle Shurmur picked up right where he left off after the Tennessee game last November, unstoppable and on FIRE. He lead his team to a 28-6 win over Middle Tennessee State, as well as a 42-0 shut-out against Alabama A&M. Then the stretch of four Top 25 ranked opponents started week three against Kansas State; Vandy beat them too 14-7. Vandy Nation was abuzz with excitement and anticipation.
Alabama rolled into town, for a hot and steamy September afternoon. The Commodores could do very little against the number one team in the nation. They escaped the game with NO injuries, except to maybe their pride with the final score being 59-0. Vandy then traveled to the swamp to take on Florida. They have played them close the last three seasons. Hopes were high that they could finally get it done this year. Alas, it was not meant to be, and the Dores lost 45-14.
Back to Nashville against Georgia, and the outcome was not what the same as it had been the year before between the hedges. Vandy lost 45-14 and the Dores looked exhausted. Next was a trip to Oxford to take on a struggling Ole Miss. This looked like a very winnable game, but Ole Miss came alive on Saturday against the Dores. Vandy fell hard 57-35 to the Rebels or Land Sharks or whatever their mascot is now.
The bye week cannot come soon enough.
Season Part Two
The second half of the season has started, and the Dores have a much needed bye week. Vandy needs to rest up, regroup, reboot, retool, recharge, and revitalize and every other RE- word you can think of to finish the season strong. Coach Derek Mason and his staff need to make some serious adjustments. That Vandy we saw last November and again in the first three weeks of September needs to COME BACK. The confidence needs to come back. The swagger and mistake-free football need to come back. The WINS, we especially need the WINS back. (Yes, I know I am being Captain Obvious).
To reiterate, Vanderbilt needs mistake-free football. The defense needs to get back to being relentless and living up to their nickname ‘Black Death’. They need to smother offenses like they are trying to put out the California forest fires. The D-Line needs to be impenetrable. The linebackers need to be aggressive with their tackling. The DB’s and safeties need to be opportunistic and start snatching the balls out of the air.
The offensive line is young, but they have potential. Now is the time to start playing to that potential. They have seven games under their belt, so let the gelling begin (please start to gel). Without the O-line making holes, the dynamic duo of Ralph Webb and Khari Blasingame cannot work their magic. Vandy is getting points on the board, and the passing game has been good, but not great. There have been a few too many dropped balls. This offense has proven that it increases in strength as the season progresses, so there is no reason to believe they will not finish just as strong this year.
The Home Stretch Begins
As October comes to an end, the Commodores will make a trip to Williams-Brice Stadium to take on the Gamecocks. South Carolina is performing well this season as they are currently 5-2. They will be riding the high of a win at Tennessee and the extra down time of a bye week. Both teams will be ready for battle. The game will come down to who plays the best mistake-free football. I picked Vandy to win (21-17) this game. They have almost beat the Gamecocks the last three seasons, and I believe the Dores will prevail this season.
As November rolls around, Vanderbilt kicks off a three-game stint at Dudley. Western Kentucky will be the first to arrive on November 4th. They have a new head coach and have started the season 4-2, but they are not as dominate as they were a season ago. Their defense is struggling and the offense is not performing to their top potential. This tends to happen when there is a coaching change. The Big Red have new coaches, new systems to learn, and lots of growing pains. I picked Vandy to win 38, WKU 35. Not sure it will be that high scoring of a game, but you never know in college football.
The Kentucky Wildcats will follow on November 11th. The Wildcats seem to be the sleeper team in the SEC this season; they are currently at 5-1. Throughout the season so far, they have struggled to pull away from teams and every game has been close. Their secondary is talented but has let some big plays slip through their fingers. Their O-line is weak at best, with injuries and overall performance issues. I was going to amend my preseason pick of Vandy 10, Kentucky 13, however I believe this a very winnable game for Vanderbilt, if the Dores have fixed their own performance issues. Yet, Kentucky has been finding ways to win despite their struggles. I will let my preseason pick stand, and I will not be mad if I have picked this game wrong.
Missouri arrives on West End November 18th. Missouri dismissed their defensive coordinator in early September, and head coach Barry Odom is now running the defense. The Tigers are 1-5 this year. Their season has been a roller coaster with glimpses of hope, but penalties and turnovers have haunted them. I picked Vandy to win 35- 17. I will stand by this prediction.
Finally, Thanksgiving and a trip to Knoxville will round out November in Tennessee. The Commodores will travel to take on the Volunteers. To say that Vol Nation is upset with Butch Jones and The Big Orange is the understatement of the 2017 college football season. You can read about their struggles here, thanks to GBO coverage by our very own Mike Loveall. Vanderbilt had their way with Tennessee last season, and they would love to do it again in Neyland Stadium. My preseason prediction was Vanderbilt 21, Tennessee 17. I stand by this wholeheartedly.
Vanderbilt had one of the toughest four-game stretches in college football with four Top 25 ranked opponents. They came out with ONE win and NO major injuries. Nevertheless, that is a win-win for any football team. If — strike that — when Mason and his staff fix the performance issues, November is going to be GOLDen for Vandy Nation. There is absolutely no reason they cannot overcome their struggles from the first half of the season and finish strong. They have a great group of seniors that want to go out on top. They have a solid and strong team that is unstoppable when they are firing on all cylinders. The Vanderbilt Commodores will punch through the second half of the season and WILL finish the regular season 7-5. Vandy Nation will get their football season extended into December with a bowl game.
Main Photo Credit: