They Can Get Some Respect: Vanderbilt at SEC Media Days

Bobby Johnson apparently wasn't in the mood to do any impersonations -- at least any beyond Steve Martin, which he masters simply by standing there.

"Well, I could do a Rodney Dangerfield, but I can't," he said. "I'm not very good at his impression."

The question, of course, was about whether Vanderbilt expected to get any more respect at Media Days after last year's 7-6 season that included a Music City Bowl win over ACC -- ahem -- power Boston College. Johnson was quick to recover from his joke and respond in a politically correct but earnest sounding manner.

"We weren't seeking respect," he said. "We were seeking to do as good as we could possibly do in our program. ... I like going back and talking to our team after we win games, talking to our fans when they meet you after an away game, they meet you back at the stadium. Those kind of rewards are a whole lot better than -- excuse me -- the press."

There are a couple of problems with what is likely to become the primary meme for Vanderbilt in the preseason: They went to a bowl game last year! Won't someone give them some respect?!? (Problems that go beyond the fact that the meme contradicts itself by suggesting that they deserve respect, meaning the writer respects them, meaning they're getting respect.)

First: To an extent, the Commodores are already getting some of that hard-earned regard.

According to Stassen's Preseason Consensus, Vanderbilt is chosen to come in fifth in the SEC East -- not an historic high, even for Vanderbilt, but a placing that puts them ahead of an assumed bowl team (Kentucky) and just 3.5 points behind South Carolina for fourth. That's the smallest gap between any two teams in the East. And that springs from prognosticators like Athlon and Football Outsiders, who put Vandy in fourth or tied for third -- almost certainly among the highest projections for the Dores since the beginning of divisional play in 1992.

Of course, there's a difference between those who watch the games and those who play them.

"There are still going to be teams out there that see us as an underdog, that put an asterisk next to us and circle our name as a win," said cornerback Myron Lewis.

The other problem with the meme is one we've covered here before -- without taking away from what Vanderbilt accomplished, the Commodores were incredibly lucky in 2008. And to say that is to insult the word "incredibly."

Is the next step for the 'Dores moving beyond the need for a well-timed "big play" to sway the outcome of games?

"That's probably been the pattern the last three years with us, either heartbreakers won or hearterbakers lost for the other team," Johnson said. "I think it's going to be that way forever. As good as we can get, our program is going to have to perform at a high level every week to have a chance to win consistently in this league."

Which is a fair and level-headed statement. Johnson knows that his team can't win consistently in the SEC if they don't capitalize on every bounce of the ball, even though he also said that "the sky's the limit for Vanderbilt," an assertion for which there is really no recent historical evidence.

Not to be disrespectful, but the Commodores should really spend more than one year out of the cellar before they start aiming for the stars.

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