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.


Bob Loblaw said...

So you were a lot closer on the Kentucky game last week than I was, nice call. Cats run more than four snaps in the third quarter and I might've been right! Oh well.

I don't think Vandy will win by 10, but I do think they'll win. Blowing teams out, WCU excluded, isn't quite their style.


My predictions, especially any involving non-SEC teams, are extremely unscientific; it was sheer luck.

Yes, I think Vandy will win too, though an upset is not out of the question. The big issue is whether Johnson and his offensive brain trust (and they are offensive) try to run the ball and get a win this week or try to improve the passing game and maybe build to some more wins down the road.

Bob Loblaw said...

That's a tough call. I think Bobby et al. know what they've got offensively, and that's some great running backs and some guys who kind of stand on opposite ends of the formation and look great in their uniforms. Sometimes those guys run past the guys who are covering them, which can be surprising, and then, even more surprisingly, they are surprised when a football enters a three foot radius of their person. It's crazy!

Jeffers-Harris or no Jeffers-Harris, this receiving corps is just bad. Not sure if it's the route running or bad play by Larry, but if it doesn't get fixed soon, you'll be seeing 9 guys in the box on every play.


You're right. Our next opponent, Ole Miss has one of the best D-lines in the country and if we can't establish the passing game it'll be ugly.

Anonymous said...

You can establish the passing game, bring focus to take the ball down the field in the huddle, keep the defense on it's toes with QB speed, all with Goro


Wow, I'm looking forward to seeing this kid play someday.

Greg M said...

I am going to do what I did last year for th second half of hte season,and that is bet $20 with ta friend of mine against Vandy every week from here on out. With our O, even if we win we will not cover any spreads. That way I at least make a little money will I am crying in my beer.

Hope Jay Fullam gets back soon and gives our D a little more depth. With our no huddle offense giving the ball back to other team so quickly, we need it.


Greg, you were the only person I know who when he signed thought Jay Fullam could step in and play right away. I had him pegged as a sure redshirt. But he was so impressive in preseason before he injured his hand that Johnson has said he'll burn his redshirt if Fullam can return from injury within the next month or so.