Who would have guessed that our season would be made or broken in a football game against Miami? Against whom we are slated to be 14-point favorites?
Not me. I would have picked Alabama... or Kentucky or Wake. But not the Redhawks. And that is exactly the danger that we face tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. on Dudley Field.
Coach Johnson swears up and down that the Commodores are not overlooking anybody this year. He cites the first line of the Commodore Creed, which reminds us to "Never underestimate [an] opponent."
Sam Sabulis (junior majoring in English and Psychology) writes in the Hustler that the 'Dores won't underestimate Miami quoting that self-same Commodore Creed.
In the article, Bobby Johnson waxes almost Holtz-like in talking up our opponents from Ohio. Let us hope that this talk is breaking through the celebratory haze and making it to our players: we do not need to lay an egg like we did against Auburn this year.
If we avoid laying the egg, it may be in part thanks to Mackenzi Adams. Vanderbilt's unlikely sophomore field-general led the Commodores to their spectacular once-every-seventy-years win (there's that phrase again), and because of that, he gets plenty of attention this week.
In the City Paper, Brett Hait calls him firery as he shoulders the V.U. offense. There's even this great quote from the story: "Adams like playing football so much that he doesn't even mind being hit."
An important quality for most Vanderbilt quarterbacks to have (just ask Jay Cutler, who talks about how his career on West End prepared him to lead the Broncos to come-from-behind wins in "crisis situations").
The Hustler's Eric Silver also has a Friday Conversation with the young man that some Commodores are dubbing "Spuds" Mackenzi (that's a Dodgeball reference for those keeping score at home).
It's a neat interview, giving us some insight into Mac's outlook on things. And there's also this great exchange:
Hustler: If you had to describe Coach Bobby Johnson in one word, what would it be?
Adams: I'd say calm.
I don't know what to make of that, but it made me laugh when I read it. I suppose it's an accurate way to describe our sedate-yet-Solomonic leader; of course, I suppose it doesn't quite qualify when we're talking about how he acts on the sideline.
Maurice gives us insight into another player: Vanderbilt's up-and-down punter, Brett Upson. The sophomore was named the SEC's Special Teams Player of the Week after averaging 40.1 yards on eight punts in the 'Dores victory over South Carolina.
Player bio-pieces abound this week as David Namm writes about Cassen Jackson-Garrison in today's Hustler: how Vandy's star running-back is coping with being a new father.
The sports staff at the Hustler must have had a lot of time to write over Fall Break, because they also bring us a rather well-written article from Aleksey Dubrovensky who opines that Coach Johnson deserves credit for Vandy's resurgence.
And no, it's not plagiarized from the VM article we've talked about already this week (though one might wonder whether the VM piece did inspire the topic).
Elsewhere around SEC Country, the Hartwell Times, from Hartwell, Ga., writes that Coach Johnson earned their Coach of the Week award for this past week -- a considerable feat when one remembers that Crazy Les Miles' unbelievable touchdown pass call also occurred this week.
In the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Ron Higgins writes that the SEC in 2007 could be a story of cardiac arrest because of all the last-minute decisions and unbelievable upsets (and he nicely contrasts this with the SEC's 75th anniversary slogan, "A story of character" -- which reminds me that I've been meaning to comment: the folks at SEC HQ here in Birmingham must have quite a bit of gall to argue that our conference is a story of character -- how many sanctions and violations have our 12 teams had in the past 75 years? I'd wager more than anybody else).
He also has a couple of nice quotes from Bobby Johnson, including this gem: "The [perennial] favorites better be ready to play each week [because] the teams that are trying to gain ground and scratch their way to the top are going to keep making things interesting."
And that's no threat -- it's a promise.
Moving up to Yankee-land, we get some perspective on the mindset that the Miami Redhawks will bring with them to Music City from Pete Conrad's piece in the Oxford Press. He writes that Miami's coach was mostly pleased with his team's performance: "To our kids' credit, we fought until the end and gave ourselves a chance [to win]."
On to the paysites. On VandyMania.com, Pete gives us his weekly Pigskin Prognostications -- and not even he can come up with a good enough reason to pick against the 'Dores. He chooses the Black-and-Gold, "by 24."
VM also has a breakdown of the match-up between the 'Dores and 'Hawks.
On VandySports.com, Mike Huguenin gives us an overall preview of the SEC this weekend, and several Vanderfolk get kindly mentions.
On to the blogs. At VSL, Bobby O'Shea posts the thoughts of one of their loyal readers who worries that Vandy could be overlooking the Miamians. Of course, as one can see from the past two days, we've been worrying about the same thing here at S&S as well.
On Who Ya With, Marv reminds us that there's no Miami in Ohio and takes a look at four things he needs to see in order to see a Commodore victory tomorrow.
At Belly of the Beast (we've never heard of it, either), Gray picks Vandy to win and warns his readers to "[s]tart stockpiling canned goods because if Vandy goes to a bowl, the earth may have slipped off its axis."
We don't subscribe to such non-sense here at S&S, but if we do get win number five (which would then make worrying about win number six logical), we may go pick up some extra Beef Stew and Italian Wedding Soup when Publix has a sale.
Fellow Alabama-dwelling blogger "bluedogmobile" posts Mama's pigskin prognostications for this week, and she's worried about how the 'Dores will react to their huge win over Spurrier.
Apparently she's not too worried; she goes with the 'Dores and picks Miami 14, Vanderbilt 24.
On a blog entitled Priapism Pick'em Party (warning, features some mature content on the right-hand side of your screen), the blogger, who looks at games where a large number of bettors are going with a certain team, writes that 67% of gamblers are going with the 'Dores over Mimai, despite the two-touchdown line.
Finally, on the football side of things, CaDawg (I'm guessing that reads California Dawg?) notes, with glee, that there is, indeed, justice in this world:
There is justice in this world. After South Carolina beat Georgia, SC Coach Steve Spurrier said that it was no big deal. After all Georgia had lost to Vanderbilt the year before. Last week, Vandy beat SC 17-6. Poetic justice.
I couldn't agree more.
NI just doesn't cover football (despite assertions to the contrary by some of our readers). As you may or may not remember, SEC Basketball Media Days are in full swing, and there is some news about Coach Stallings' men of which you should be apprised.
First, Coach Mike Gottfried at Alabama takes something of a swipe at either Coach Stallings, Vanderbilt, our players, or all three with an interesting comment he made in front of the cameras.
Brett Hait lets us know that the occasion for the Alabama coach's comments was provided by -- get this -- Tennessee's Bruce Pearl (the same man that Coach Stallings called -- well, I can't repeat it here (this is a family blog, of course), but you'll recall it was bleep-worthy for sure).
Finally, in actual news about the basketball team, the Chattanooga Times-Free Press writes that both Stallings and the Dores are motivated by the way their season ended last year (yeah, that call against Georgetown that kept us out of the Elite Eight).
Even Bruce Pearl thinks it was a bad call.
In baseball news, the 2007 Black and Gold Scrimmage began last night, and Team Gold beat Team Black, 7-4. Junior pitcher (and Gold team captain) Nick Christiani got the W for the winning side.
The scrimmage series continues tonight and ends on Sunday. Game time tonight is 6 p.m.; for the Sunday contest it's 1 p.m.
In their first appearance on a VUCommodores.com feature, Vanderbilt's resurrected women's swimming team gets some attention in the weekly Ask a 'Dore feature. Answering your questions this week is head swim coach Jeremy Organ.
That's it for this week; we'll see if we can't get Mark back on here with some stories from the Fire in San Diego and some commentary on the Commodores' football future next week as we turn our attention to Florida in the Swamp.
For now, though, the season -- and our hopes for joy after a quarter-century of despair -- is on the line tomorrow afternoon at 1:00 p.m. Listen to Coach Johnson, and be there. Wear gold, and let's get the win.