Thursday, September 24, 2009
For Vandy fans, it's time for psychological preparation
Thank goodness Vandy plays Rice this weekend, right?
After all, Rice is 0-3 and doesn't have the physical defense or overall talent that LSU and Miss State have, right? And all those Owl skill players who burned us last year have graduated, right? And the Commodores are favored by as many as 10 points, right?
So this should be an easy win, right?
Well, wrong. Vandy fans need to psychologically prepare themselves to lose this game. First, we'll feel even more relieved and elated if we win, which is how we should feel after any win. Second, we'll be more stoic — and less danger to ourselves and society in general — if we at least consider the possibility of a demoralizing loss.
Here are a few scary stats:
• The Vanderbilt offense is averaging 6 points a game against Division I opponents, while Rice is averaging 19 points against DI opponents, including two teams that finished in the regular season Top 10 last season.
• The Vanderbilt defense is allowing 19 points a game against DI teams, which is solid, but not exactly encouraging when you consider it's more than three times as many points as the offense generates.
• Oklahoma State converted on third down only twice in nine tries against the Rice defense.
Here's one encouraging stat:
• The Rice defense is surrendering 47 points a game, including 44 to UAB.
So here's the conundrum: Do we focus on running or passing against Rice? Sounds like we're going to try to pound the ball down their throats and win a ball-control game, just like we always do against lesser opponents (see: MTSU 2005 or Duke 2008). Right now, Bradley Vierling is talking about reestablishing the running game and Ted Cain is talking about simplifying the game plan.
Sure, our running game needed some work, but don't you wish we'd spent a little more time on the passing game during the Western Carolina game? Let's say our offensive line can overpower Rice and pick up big chunks on the ground. So we stick with the running game and get the win. Then we play Ole Miss and all those hulking, freakishly fast defensive linemen and our passing game still needs fine-tuning and we get crushed.
But let's say this thought actually occurs to Ted Cain, and he decides to let Larry sling it around and work out the kinks in the passing game and we get into a shootout.
Which brings up another concern: Our secondary. Rice can sling the ball around. Jamie Graham has a concussion and may not play. Casey Hayward is having migraines. Sean Richardson pulled a muscle in his leg and is limping around. And the best of the true freshmen, Eric Samuels, is still recovering from an ankle injury. Who's left? Here's the list, along with where they stood on the opening day depth chart:
• Joel Caldwell, R-SR: Second team
• Eddie Foster, FR: Not listed
• Trey Wilson, FR: Not listed
• Micah Powell, R-FR: Not listed
• Al Owens, R-FR: Not listed
Alan Strong, too bad you decided to quit the team this summer. Too bad for you and for us.
Anyway, go ahead and psychologically prepare yourselves, Vandy fans.