Monday, October 13, 2008
FOR VANDERBILT, THE NUMBER SIX IS LOOMING LARGE
How important was the Mississippi State game? If the Commodores had won that game, we wouldn't be talking about getting that all-important sixth win. Has that number been on our minds since 2005 or what?
This season, we almost stumbled on six victories without thinking about it. But then a funny thing happened: One game away, everybody started talking about the Georgia Dome and New Year's Day bowls and — gasp — BCS.
We took the sixth game for granted. It reminded me of the MTSU game in 2005, though Mississippi State was a better team than those Blue Raiders. The Commodores lacked the sense of desperation they had against South Carolina and Auburn this season. Remember those games? The Commodores were in a fight for their lives. If they didn't play their best every down, they were gonna get taken to the woodshed.
They weren't in a fight for their lives on Saturday. They were sloppy and uninspired, and they still expected to win. And at the end of the game, the players were pointing fingers at each other.
So instead of having six wins, Vanderbilt still has five and now the number six is looming large on everybody's mind. And we're doing the math.
OK, we'll lose to Georgia, maybe big. And then we've got to beat Duke, who is pretty good, who is coached by David Cutcliffe, who we've faced 24 times — 18 as a full-time coach at UT and six as head coach at Ole Miss — and have beaten only once, in overtime in Oxford in 1999. (He wasn't on the Tennessee staff when Vanderbilt beat the Vols in 2005.)
And then it will be November.
Here's Vanderbilt's record month by month since 2005, when a winning season first seemed realistic:
August/September: 13-4, including 4-0 this season
October: 5-9, including 1-1 this season
This November, Vanderbilt plays Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee and Wake Forest.
It'll be interesting, for sure.