I still cannot believe it.
It's one of those things that my mind can register intellectually, but that my heart is having serious issues accepting as reality: the Commodores of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee have been ranked the twenty-first best team in all of college football by the Associated Press.
We are officially the nation's new Cinderella and feel-good-story team. And as we start bye week (a much-needed one, at that), it's difficult to wrap my head around what to do now, and where we go from here.
An analogy for how I'm feeling goes something like this:
You grow up in a poor neighborhood, and you've never had money. Every week, for years and years, you buy a lottery ticket.
You know how astronomical the odds are (you're actually pretty smart). Despite the odds, every week, you keep playing.
Occasionally, you get one or two numbers away from the winning number, and you consider this a moral victory.
Then, all of a sudden, you hit the Cash 4, winning thousands and thousands of dollars. It's not the Lotto -- no, the Lotto has six numbers, doesn't it -- but it's sure more money than you've ever seen in a long, long time.
What do you do now?
Good question. Legendary Alabama head coach (and former Vanderbilt assistant!) Bear Bryant answered it this way: "Act like you've been there before."
But coach, the things is, we haven't. And that's what's making news in Commodore Country:
Tim Lecher says we're a team on the rise, but he is about as tentative as you can be.
Chris Low thinks Ryan Hamilton should get SEC Defensive Player of the Week props, and I fully endorse that (3 interceptions and a touchdown?).
Lindsey Rutledge says George Smith will be back to face the Auburn Tigers (hopefully Chris Nickson will be healed up, too).
Stan Jones took great pictures from the game in Oxford.
Mike Huguenin points out that winnable games are a matter of perspective (games we see as winnable are usually seen by our opponent as winnable, too).
David Rutz makes a good point: this off-week comes at a great time for the Commodores, who have several key players on the injured list.
Maurice Patton can guarantee we'll be in the Top 25 longer than last time, and that's mainly because we have a bye week (we were only in the rankings one week in 1984, due to a loss to Tulane).
Brett Hait finds a winning record: Vanderbilt is 13-12 in the past 25 games (dating back to 2006).
Robert Rousseau asserts that this team is no fluke, thanks to wins over Carolina and Ole Miss.
Herb Gould gives the Dores some props, which we appreciate despite his use of the (seemingly inevitable) play on "Vandy" and "dandy."
USA Today has Ryan Hamilton among their candidates for player of the week, but Ryan's in third as of this writing (click and go vote for him).
Blair Kerkhoff wins my award for best lede of the day, with this gem: "The best [SEC] team in Tennessee might be in Nashville." Took the words right out of my mouth.
Paul Gattis gives the Dores props early and often in his "SEC Chatter" column (you just know he loves putting our ranking next to our name as he talks about Yew Tee).
The Editorial Board of the Vanderbilt Hustler basically gloats that we're now both an academic and athletic powerhouse in today's Editorial (we've now been ranked in the Top 25 of all three major men's sports in the past 12 months -- and, of course, we've been in the Top 25 academically for a long, long time).
Does anybody else thing the AP lede is, well, annoying?
Adam Weinstein has the Hustler's version of events in Oxford.
Dennis Dodd give us respect -- well, sort of.
Chris Low gives credit to the whole coaching staff, recognizing that the Commodores' discipline is something taught from the bottom up.
Matt Zemek values the gift of a Vanderbilt Education, and he ain't just talkin' 'bout a diploma.
Rick Cleveland sees some confident Commodores after they beat his Rebels.
Rick also sees a fundamental difference in this Vanderbilt team and the Ghosts of Losses Past.
Chris Low keeps makin' it rain, giving a "shout out" to the whole Vanderbilt team, with a specific sticker for Ryan Hamilton.
Jim Mashek says that Vanderbilt was smarter than Ole Miss in the big game.
David Brandt has a good run-down of the crazy 53 seconds in the first quarter when the teams scored most of their points.
Marlin Morgan points to the shut-out Vanderbilt's defense pitched for three quarters as the game-changing statistic.
Jimmy Morris also believes that Defense won it for VU.
Paul Gattis is speechless after a wild SEC weekend, that included our big win.
Jack Bonden analyzes why people love Vandy, and his reasons actually make a lot of sense (perseverance, no Athletic Department, no vulgarity, and rooting for the underdog).
A certain Jarred proclaims the importance of the number 21.
Bobby O'Shea continues day two of the celebration.
Some guy named Innovator says we're the worst team in the SEC despite being ranked higher than 6 other teams in the SEC (guess math isn't his strength).
John Scott, Auburn fan, worries about the Tigers' trip to Nashville.
LawVol ranks the Dores tied with Bama for Fourth in the SEC (see, this is the sort of stuff that is going to cause the fabric of the Universe to be torn).
Jason points out that the 2008 Vandy-at-Ole Miss game was the inverse of the 2006 game in Oxford (and enjoys Yew Tee's misery a bit -- sorry LawVol).
VandySports.com picks Five Anchors from the game that helped us win.
Glen Dean freezes hell over because we're ranked.
GoldNI sees 51-10 as Exhibit A in the case against this year's team being SOV (as in "Vanderbilt is outscoring opponents 51-10 in the second half").
DeadGuySEC has an interesting comparison: is 2008 Vanderbilt the same sort of team as 2007 Mississippi State?
Darrell Owenby reviews the last two times that the Dores started out 4-0, and he picks up on an interesting trend (in both '84 and '05, the Dores' 4 victories were over unranked opponents -- in 2008, at least 1 was against the No. 24 team, and the 'Dores were underdogs in all but 1).
Matt Wilson captures the schadenfreude that VU fans got to enjoy this weekend.
Hell freezes over again, according to Thomas the Terrible.
Pat, at the official VU Class of '73 blog, wonders if we've broken through (and he also has some great flashbacks to the 4 football seasons that the "centennial class" went through during their time as VU students).
We're getting some respect on the South Carolina message boards.
Brandon Speck blames Vandy's win on "Yoh-yoh, yoh-yoh, yooooooh-yoh, yooooooh-yoh, VooDoo."
Kraig McNutt and his family capture some of the atmosphere in the Grove and after the win (they're street fans, too, so let's show them some love).
T. Kyle King keeps the 'Dores ranked No. 22, the same place he had us last week (and he was spot-on with the AP voters this week, more or less).
Chris Low must be on the McGugin pay rolls, as he dispels the myth that VU's a mirage this year (but hey Chris -- we are most certainly not complaining -- keep it up, 'cause you're raising sportswriters' awareness of us to keep us in the Top 25).
Jarred Amato hears some Commodore Banter, and we hope he gets well soon.
PhilipVU94 gives us his SEC Power Rankings, and he moves the 'Dores to No. 5 (but asks whether we can survive on defense and special teams alone).
Bobby O'Shea was hard at work on Sunday, and I can confirm Joe Fisher's observation that Chris Nickson really wanted to go back in (he was visibly excited when he saw the score after coming out of the locker room, and you could see stubborn determination in his eyes as he kept his arm warm with passes on the sidelines during the fourth quarter).
Jesus Quintana is collecting on the free money Vegas is giving away, and he should: VU is 4-0 against the spread this season.
What not to do with our newly-minted Top 25 status: lose it to an inferior team.
Women's soccer beat UAB in Nashville Sunday, 4-1.
The Men's and Women's Cross Country teams both won the Commodore Classic that we hosted in Nashville's Percy Warner Park on Saturday.
Carolyn, a long-suffering Vanderfan based in Tennessee, celebrates the Dores and bashes the Vawls (what a wonderful weekend).
BREAKING: ESPN will return to Nashville for the Auburn game! It is the Commodores' second appearance on the "World-Wide Leader in Sports" this year.
Maurice Patton has details on the TV gig.
Chris Low looks at what's hot and what's not in the SEC, and the Commodores aren't just hot, they're "en fuego" (I mean, let's buy Chris a fruit basket or something -- seriously -- this guy's a UT grad, but he's been throwing some serious ink our way).