Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Vanderbilt fans should stop and count their blessings

So Tennessee fans have gleefully returned to the chat boards, Vanderbilt fans are hollering about the offensive coordinator, and journalists have twisted quotes from 20-year-olds to mean they didn’t take a team seriously that has beaten their school 24 out of the past 25 years.

Hang on a minute. It’s almost Thanksgiving, and on behalf of Commodore fans I’m going to count our blessings.

Let’s don’t think back to Oct. 4, the day we beat Auburn to go 5-0. That’s the problem. Let’s think back to Aug. 28, as we were taking the field against Miami-Ohio. Remember?

We didn’t know who our starting quarterback was. We had a brand-new offensive line. We had unproven running backs and wide receivers. Our field goal kicker’s confidence was shaken. We had a brand-new defensive line and linebackers, but a secondary that was solid and deep.

We were supposed to lose to the Redhawks and then to talented South Carolina and Ole Miss teams and then to Auburn, Miss State, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee and Wake Forest, all of whom went to bowls last season. The only teams we had a chance to beat were Rice and Duke.

That’s two wins. Or three wins if we got lucky and upset Miami-Ohio.

What happened?

It’s late November and we still don’t know who our starting quarterback is. Our offensive line still hasn’t gelled. We have few skill players on offense who could play for another SEC team. All told, we have one of the four worst offenses in college football. And the kicker is still shaky.

On defense, only three down linemen have played all season. Two young linebackers have had to step up. The secondary is still solid and deep. With smoke and mirrors, these guys have been among the national leaders in sacks and red zone defense.

Auburn started the season in the Top 10 and was supposed to end up at the Georgia Dome. Tennessee started in the Top 20 and was a dark horse to get there too. These teams’ defenses were among the best in the country. They had questions at quarterback too, but they had big veteran offensive lines and stud running backs and a stable of blue chip receivers.

So here we are, at the end of the regular season, at Thanksgiving.

Not with two wins, or three wins. Not with moral victories.

Auburn and Tennessee have losing records.

And we have six wins. And a bowl bid on the way.

So go ahead and second-guess our team, which wasn’t supposed to be here anyway.

I’m planning to go to a bowl, and for that I’m thankful.

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