Give Vanderbilt fans one thing: They're still Vanderbilt fans. After years of losing, they remain with the Commodores and are as hopeful as ever. We asked a few questions to the fine folks over at SB Nation's Anchor of Gold. Their answers follow.
Earlier this week
Vanderbilt Hopes to Wake Up from the Nightmare
Vanderbilt Returns a Ton of Starters. That's Good, Right?; Three Things We Do and Don't Know
Vanderbilt Actually Plays a Schedule
Could Vanderbilt Go Winless?
As a South Carolina fan, this might be a bit of pot / kettle, but does it ever get old being Vanderbilt?
Train Island: Being a Vandy fan gets a little tougher the further away you get from Nashville. Football season in Music City is always the same great weather, great tailgates, cheap tickets, friendly people, and an excellent excuse to be drunk for 16 straight hours. Sometimes you even get a few surprises along the way. This year especially will be fun in Nashville with a great home schedule, developing offense, and the Frank Reynolds innovation of wine in a can for tailgate purposes. However, living away from the campus (currently in Indianapolis) makes the season less fun, since watching most games requires a trip to BW3's just to see the team put up 13 points against Army. It hasn't gotten old yet, but if the offense is an inept as last year it will be a lot less fun.
What will make this a successful season for Vanderbilt fans? On a broader level, what makes the program a success over the long term (so many bowl bids in so many years, etc.)?
TI: The basement for 2010 is probably pretty low. Vandy's got a tough OOC schedule and no gimmes outside of the Eastern Michigan game. On the plus side, they've got a great home schedule and should be able to snag a couple upsets -- but typically the 'Dores pull their big upsets (Georgia in '06, South Carolina in '07) on the road. I'd like to say that 6 wins and bowl eligibility would be a success, but looking at the schedule it's tough to figure out where those wins will come from. I'll leave it at 2 OOC wins (out of EMU, Northwestern, Connecticut, and Wake Forest) and 3 SEC wins -- including a win vs. Tennessee -- as my high expectations. I'd like to be more optimistic, but this team seems to do the best when my expectations are pretty modest. 5-7 sucks, but it would show some legitimate progress after last year's offensive gameplanning featured more bad ideas than an episode of 16 & Pregnant.
Vandy Dan: You have to go higher than 5 wins for your high bar. Is it realistic? No. But coming into 2008, I did not see six wins on that schedule either -- and definitely not if you told me we would lose to Mississippi State and Duke
Has Bobby Johnson pretty much set himself up as coach for life given the bowl berth a couple of years ago, or is there some point at which you can see him being in some degree of trouble?
TI: Bobby Johnson bought himself a five year grace period in 2007, but he won't need it. He'd need to string together 3 or 4 0-8 SEC seasons to be in serious trouble, but given the way he's been improving Vandy's recruiting, it's tough to see that becoming a reality. He'll put together another solid season that either sates the fans or brings bigger programs calling -- and if he feels like his recruiting has plateaued, then I expect he'll be gone before the fans would even get a chance to turn on him. However, given his recent success and the improvement of the players on campus, I think he'll be able to go above and beyond and bring Vanderbilt back to .500+ ball again. As sad as that last sentence sounds, that's a big win in Nashville.
KingJamesIV: Around Nashville, it's hard to get a clear pulse on Coach Johnson. I think coaching stability is of such vital importance to a team like Vanderbilt ... yet there are plenty of Commodore fans who are so disheartened by the direction the offense has been heading since even the middle of the 2008 season that it's hard to tell how firmly he stands. I would have to imagine that the administration is much more tempered in their judgment of his performances from season to season. There were some role changes on the offensive side of the coaching staff over the offseason, so we'll see if that has any positive effect.
Why in the world would Vanderbilt consider moving to the Big Ten? Or is that just a media-driven story?
KJ4: Growing up in the South, I mostly relate to the same "why in the world would Vandy consider moving to the Big Ten?" perspective. Best I can tell, Andy Katz or whoever brought it up as a "thinking outside the box" option. I have no idea if it's something that the Big Ten is considering, though Vanderbilt does not appear to have been contacted by the Big Ten at all. So at this point, I'd have to agree that it's been purely media-driven. The thing about Vanderbilt is that its alumni base is not very regional. A large percentage of the students come from outside the reign of the SEC. So, while my initial reaction was displeasure at the very suggestion that Vanderbilt would be a target to move to the Big Ten, I'm sure there is a very large number of alumni who would at least entertain the notion. Train Island lives in the heart of the Big Ten in Indiana and VandyDan lives in DC. So their opinions factor their non-southern frame of reference.
TI: Vanderbilt isn't going anywhere. The Big Ten doesn't offer them anything but a slightly easier football schedule and lower revenue share with the BCS -- especially if the Big Ten expands to 16 teams. Vandy has carved out a significant niche in the SEC, and the school, students, and their fans seem to enjoy that role. Both the money and public opinion line up against Vanderbilt going anywhere. Take note, Ole Miss -- we're not throwing away an opportunity to tailgate at the Grove every other year.
VD: As for the Big 10, I think Vandy is unlikely to get offered a slot; however, if the offer comes, I think we'd be kidding ourselves if we think David Williams and Nick Zeppos (vice chancellor in charge of athletics and chancellor, respectively) would not strongly consider switching leagues. First, the Big 10 schools currently pull in $5 million extra per year on the TV deal -- not an insignificant number. I have to think that number will go up post-expansion. Also, the Big 10 has much more of a national reach. Living outside of SEC or Big 10 country, I see a lot more Big 10 football and basketball games than SEC games. Not to mention that the SEC games shown here tend to include teams not named Vanderbilt. Plus, membership in the Big 10 would help Vandy grow as a national school off of the athletics field as well, since Big 10 schools tend to place more grads in high profile jobs around the country than SEC schools. The Big 10 features a schools that Vandy could consider peers on the field and in the classroom, whereas the SEC offers few peers in either category.
The biggest competitive benefit would be football. While some Vandy grads take a lot of pleasure in getting to brag that we lose most of our games in a tough conference, I get no pleasure out watching my alma mater lose most of its games year after year to schools where players take the SAT orally. Obviously Ohio State football is not Harvard (or even Ohio U), but if Northwestern can get it done in the Big 10, so can Vandy. Screw competing with the best, because we do not do that and never have. Vandy football is not Vandy basketball. Plus, when it comes to basketball the Big 10 is every bit as good as the SEC -- and actually slightly better most years.
Aside from what you might want or consider successful, what do you expect this year from Vanderbilt?
TI: I want to see the defense recover after the loss of leaders like Myron Lewis and Patrick Benoist and not miss a beat while Chris Marve elevates to All-American status quarterbacking the D. I expect the running game to open up lanes for the passing game as the Larry Smith/Jordan Rodgers duo combines for up to 150 yards/game in the air (baby steps, guys). I expect Smith/Rodgers to have the same awkward but strangely successful relationship that Chris Nickson and Mackenzi Adams shared. I hope to see Jamie Graham finally find a spot on offense or defense where he can display his standout athleticism and, failing that, return to the basketball team to play backup minutes at shooting guard. I expect a 4-8 season with one major upset. I want to see wins over Northwestern and Wake Forest to make a case for the best academic school football team east of the Mississippi River. I hope that we'll be able to beat a Tennessee team in flux. I expect a losing season with a few nice surprises to set up a big 2011.
KJ4: What TI said. I want to go undefeated. I expect that won't happen. I'd settle for improvement on the offensive end. Throw in an upset or two and it will tide me over until basketball tips in November. Undefeated or winless (PLEASE GOD ANYTHING BUT THAT), I'll be watching from the stands, unlike 95% of the students. Mark my words though, once September rolls around, the official line will be that "we're going to beat all you SOBs." Nevermind the settling it all out of the field part.
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Thanks again to Anchor of Gold, and be sure to check out their site for Vanderbilt news all year.