Thursday, October 9, 2008

MISSISSIPPI STATE IS A MUST-WIN GAME FOR VANDERBILT

How important is this Mississippi State game?

Check out Bobby Johnson's record month by month since 2005, when a winning season first seemed realistic:

August/September: 13-4, counting 4-0 this season
October: 5-8, counting 1-0 this season
November: 1-9

Does this mean Vanderbilt chokes down the stretch? I don't think so. I think it means Vanderbilt runs out of gas. Imagine what happens this season if we lose a couple of offensive linemen or even one defensive lineman to injury. What happens if MacKenzi Adams goes down and our choice is to force a bum-shouldered Nickson to soldier through like he tried unsuccessfully to do last year or for us to throw Larry Smith or Jared Funk to the wolves?

We've been charmed so far. Jennings goes down, Hawkins is even better. Monahan goes down, Barden looks all-conference. Spead and Nickson go down, Fagan and Adams pick up where they left off when they were starters. And we're at the top of the nation in turnover margin and sacks and red zone offense and red zone defense and fewest penalties.

But at some point, the magic will wane — the ball will bounce the wrong way, the wrong guy will get hurt, a referee will make the wrong call.

We were charmed in 2005, and all we had to do was win two of our last seven games to have a winning season and become bowl eligible. We won one.

In 2006, we upset Georgia in Athens and had to win three of our last five. We won one.

Last season, we had to win one of our last four. We won none.

Everybody's saying this is a different Vanderbilt team. But is it a different Mississippi State, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee or Wake Forest team? All those guys went to bowls last year, and we have to beat at least one of them to have a winning season, assuming that we're able to beat Duke, which we shouldn't assume.

So let's beat Mississippi State this Saturday and become bowl eligible and check that off our list. Then we can go to Athens with nothing to lose and give the Dawgs our best shot. Then we can go back home to Nashville, beat Duke and guarantee a winning season.

And it won't even be November yet. And then anything can happen.

1 comment:

Joe W said...

Nice post. And frighteningly true. I think everyone in the Commodore Nation is starting to celebrate under their breath, but we're not out of the woods yet - we're just entering them.