First off, poor Mississippi State. Henig’s performance reminded me of when I first got the NCAA Football 2002 videogame and could not complete a Jay-to-Stricker pass for the life of me. I therefore decided to adopt the ‘jump ball offense’ that involved lobs on streak routes and hoping my guy would out-jump theirs. Sometimes it worked, but it usually looked more like Henig last night with six picks...
Anyway, for me the Vanderbilt game is always the most interesting game of the week. This week, though, it might take a backseat to the Tennessee-Cal game. I was born in Berkeley, grew up there, but didn’t really grow up a Cal fan (more Stanford in me, if you catch my drift). But five years in Nashville is enough to hate UT, and I would just love to see the Golden Bears get revenge for last season.
I want to talk about Cal’s coach, Jeff Tedford, who arrived on Strawberry Hill the same time that Bobby J arrived on West End. I was quite down on Bobby J at first, mainly because I contrasted Bobby’s conservatism and ‘Furman group’ with the creativity and Oregon OC pedigree of Tedford. In the season opener against Baylor, Tedford’s first game as a head coach, the first play was a flea flicker that went 71 yards for a touchdown en route to a 70-22 win. That’s how you fire up a depressed fan base. Bobby J’s first play was a Cutler draw en route to a 45-3 loss at Georgia Tech. I don't think Vandy ran a trick play in Bobby's first four years -- not until Earl Bennett's TD pass against Michigan at least.
I’ve come to like Bobby J’s leadership and think his approach is a great fit for Vanderbilt. However, Tedford is Tim Corbin. Consider:
- They were both hired in 2002, inheriting bad programs. Both found immediate success while also building an excellent foundation for future success.
- Both are the respective stars of their athletics program whose only blight is a perceived inability to win ‘the big one.’ Corbin has yet to reach the goal of Omaha, whereas Cal has yet to reach the goal of the Rose Bowl.
- Both have won conference titles in very difficult conferences – an accomplishment that fans would have thought impossible just five years ago.
- Both programs have quickly become established as national contenders but have fallen short in their best seasons. For Cal, it was finishing 2004 ranked #4, before being passed over for Texas in the Rose Bowl and losing a bad Holiday Bowl game to Texas Tech. For Vandy, it was last season’s heartbreak in the Regional against Michigan.
- Like Corbin, Tedford has leveraged the threat of his leaving to motivate the school to build new facilities and improve existing ones. Both are frequently linked to high-profile vacancies which promote insecurities in the fan base.
- Both have produced elite athletes for the next level, but those players failed to become true ‘superstars.’ For Tedford, that’s Akilli Smith and Joey Harrington while OC at Oregon, plus Kyle Boller and Aaron Rodgers from Cal. For Corbin, that’s Khalil Greene at Clemson plus Sowers, Klosterman, and Warner Jones at VU.
- However, the more recent players -- Marshawn Lynch and DeSean Jackson; Price, Weathers, and Alvarez -- seem likely to break through and become ‘impact’ talents in the pros.