Friday, September 26, 2008

Vanderbilt's next four games: a gauge for program progress

Scoring margins for all twelve of Vanderbilt's 2008 opponents. They are averaging a scoring margin of 7.89 points per game after week 4.Graphic by Star & Stripe.
Hopefully, some of the Commodores saw last night's upset of Southern California by Oregon State (apparently, some West Coast types see a connection between the 'Dores and the Beavers), as they look toward the road ahead.

If they did, it might give them some inspiration for facing the SEC behemoths blocking the Black-and-Gold road to the post-season.

Of course, neither Coach Bobby Johnson nor the 'Dores themselves seem overly worried about looking that far into the future. Instead, they are focusing, however cliche it may be to say so in sports, on finishing each and every game.

"We take pride in finishing games," said Chris Marve, the Vanderbilt linebacker who stripped an Ole Miss running back to preserve the Commodore win last Saturday in Oxford.

"Last year we weren't able to finish well," Marve said.

Finish is what Vanderbilt must do, if it hopes to break the 26-year losing-record streak that the Commodores have piled up for themselves.

But instead of looking at the remaining schedule as a whole, it might be easier to look at it in 4-game chunks.

The next four games have some of the most important ones on the schedule to gauge whether these Commodores really are the 21st-best team in the country: Auburn, at Mississippi State, at Georgia, and Duke for homecoming.

Both Auburn and Georgia are in the Top 25, and Duke is resurgent (they're a 6.5-point favorite over Virginia for tomorrow).

If Vanderbilt emerges from these four games with a very reasonable 2-2, we will have achieved bowl eligibility.

The Commodores would also have at least one additional SEC win, taking them to at least 3-2 in the SEC (and if they manage to pull it off, it would be only the 13th time since World War II that Vanderbilt would achieve 3 wins or more in the SEC).

Even if the 'Dores emerge at 1-3 (with a loss either to Duke at Homecoming or Mississippi State in Starkville), the world has not ended just yet.

It just gets a lot tougher.

The last four-game chunk, the one that finishes the season, looks like this: Florida, at Kentucky, Tennessee, and at Wake Forest. How many wins do you see in those four games?

Realistically, it's hard to see more than 1-3 after those four, though 2-2 is also possible.

If the Commodores enter the last third of the season against Florida at 3-2 in the SEC, and if they manage to pick up another SEC win from among the Gators, UK, or the Vawls, it would be only the 5th time since World War II that the Commodores would win 4 in the SEC, and the first time since 1982.

And, of course, if the 'Dores can get to 1-3 in both of the remaining thirds of their schedule, there would also be one other statistic from 1982 that would finally be broken: Vanderbilt would be 6-6 and boast a bowl-eligible record for the first time in 26 tries.

1 comment:

PhilipVU94 said...

I'm honestly not real clear on what information your graph is trying to convey (Could this be a case where a chart with less information might be more meaningful?) but I agree that scoring margins are important at this point in the season, when we have only four weeks' worth of data to go on. To that end, you might find this bit of tomfoolery somewhat amusing.

I don't really think we're six TDs and a FG better than Florida, btw. :)

Thanks as always for your thought-provoking content.