This is my first article for Bleacher Report.
Note: Because this is my first article, I hesitate to make it downer. But when you cover Vanderbilt football, downers happen. The beauty lies in one’s ability to enjoy oneself nonetheless.
I am a Vanderbilt fan, which means I am, by definition, foolishly hopeful.
I think the Commodores have a decent shot against Florida this year. See what I mean?
But I have never, in all my days, been as confident of a Vanderbilt loss as I am right now, at this very moment, about our chances against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
The Commodores are not expected to win any of their remaining games. I, on the other hand, think they will find a win somewhere.
But it won’t be against Georgia Tech.
It’s been a rough season. It really has. In addition to the expected challenges faced by a small, academically-focused school in the SEC, the Commodores have been decimated by injuries, weak play-calling, and, most recently, bad officiating. If the ‘Dores return to a bowl this year, mark my words, there will be a Disney movie about it next summer.
So my expectations are low. Historically, however, the ‘Dores have performed at their best when expectations are low. Who expected Vanderbilt to win a bowl game over a ranked team only after Jay Cutler and Earl Bennett had moved on to the NFL? No one.
Which is why the upset seemed especially likely against South Carolina last week. No one expected the ‘Dores to sneak up on the very same team they snuck up on twice in a row, least of all Steve Spurrier. But they did. Despite an inability to pull out the W, they were very sneaky indeed.
So one would think that this weekend, Vanderbilt might be a reasonable long-shot pick. Georgia Tech is flying high, surely looking past the Commodores and into the postseason. Maybe Bobby Johnson can get his team amped up and ready for an upset.
Nope. Not going to happen.
Upsets happen when the underdogs bring their A-game and the expected winners (overdogs? undercats?) show up weak, maybe with their C-game or D-game. But the Yellow Jackets’ terrifying offense lines up impeccably against the Commodores. For an upset, it would have to be an A+ Vandy against an F- Tech.
Georgia Tech is a running team. Georgia Tech is the running team.
Vanderbilt has had a bit of trouble defending against the run. Schools that aren’t Western Carolina have been putting up an average of 180 yards/game. But Army—ARMY—ARMY, a team that’s been struggling against the likes of Temple and Tulane, put up 222 yards on the ‘Dores.
Georgia Tech’s offense is similar to Army’s, except Georgia Tech is bigger, faster, stronger, and unquestionably better. They have been doing naughty things to nicer defensive lines than Vanderbilt’s all year.
Vanderbilt’s defense has been quite good, but Vanderbilt’s greatest strength this year has been its ability to guard against the pass. Taking the pass away from Georgia Tech is like taking away Batman’s bat-shaped shurikens. It’s just going to get you punched in the face.
My prediction? Georgia Tech scores 45 points on Saturday.
And Vanderbilt? The Vanderbilt offense has yet to score two touchdowns against anyone but Rice and Western Carolina. I don’t see this being their breakthrough game.
But Georgia Tech has been relatively weak on defense. Unfortunately, I have a bad feeling that we won’t get to see very much Tech defense, because Georgia Tech’s offense aims to control the clock, and between Vandy’s punt-based offense and its no-huddle pace, the Commodores may not control the ball for more than twenty minutes.
I boldly predict that Vanderbilt’s offense produces 10 points. But that doesn’t make my prediction 45-10.
Is a win possible? Yes. Vanderbilt wins if all of the following occur:
- Warren Norman runs not one, but two kickoffs in for touchdowns.
- Vanderbilt turns the ball over zero times.
- Vanderbilt has zero penalties.
- Chris “The Sticky Bandit” Marve forces three (3) fumbles, and Vanderbilt recovers all of them. Two of the three must be taken in for touchdowns.
- Myron Lewis records two touchdowns, and Casey Hayward one.
So Vanderbilt wins if our defense and special teams combine for at least thirty-five points. Minimum turnover differential of +5. It could happen.
But not this week. Tech wins, 45-17