Yeah, we're all excited about our Music Bowl championship team that's returning 19 starters*. Tony Barnhart at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has even picked the Commodores No. 25 in his early pre-season Top 25. Mention us losing D.J. but finding our quarterback in Larry Smith.
That's great and I hope he's right. But I was just flipping through some magazines at the library, and Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News both have Ole Miss in their Top 10. Whoa. Of course, Florida is everybody's No. 1. And SI's got LSU in their Top 10, while TSN's got Georgia Tech in theirs.
So that means we're facing:
• Four possible Top 10 teams (LSU and Ole Miss back-to-back early in the season and Georgia Tech and Florida back-to-back late in the season)
• A sure-fire Top 25 team in Georgia, at home
• Two tough SEC East opponents, Tennessee and South Carolina, on the road
• Two teams that won bowls last season, Rice and Kentucky
• A team that beat us last year, Miss State
Note to whoever puts together our schedule: You've got four non-conference games to arrange. Nice job with Western Carolina and Army, and Rice is OK too. But what the heck are you doing scheduling Georgia Tech? Couldn't we throw in one of those little Louisiana schools, or maybe Alabama-Birmingham?
I know, I know, we scheduled Tech before they went out and got a real coach.
So as I've said before, we could have a better team next season, play more consistently in November, and have a worse record and even a losing record. (I guess for us a worse record would be a losing record.)
Why am I saying this? Because I think we need to be psychologically prepared for some bumps in the road. If we recover 17 fumbles and have 11 goal line stands to beat Ole Miss again this year, then hallelujah. But for us success doesn't necessarily mean having a better season — especially when we trade LSU for an off Auburn team and add a powerful Ga Tech team and catch South Carolina and Tennessee and even Miss State on the rebound.
*Barnhart says Vanderbilt's returning 18 starters. I say 19 if you count Jamie Graham as a starter over George Smith at wide receiver and Larry Smith or Mackenzi Adams as a starter over Chris Nickson.
1. QB: Smith or Adams
2. WR: Wheeler
3. WR: Graham
4. TE: Barden
5. RB: Hawkins
6. C: Vierling
7. OT: Welch
8. OT: Lauer
9. OG: Hensley
10. OG: Fischer
11. DT: Smotherman
12. DT: Billinger
13. DE: Stewart
14. DE: Stone
15. LB: Benoist
16. LB: Marve
17. LB: Stokes
18. CB: Lewis
19. S: Hamilton
And 20 if you count Darlron Spead at nickel back.