There's really not that much shocking in the simple fact that the Vanderbilt Commodores lost to the Houston Cougars tonight. For all the HAHAmerican Athletic Conference jokes you want to make, Houston is an undefeated team in the hunt for the Group of 5 spot in the New Year's Six bowls. They are justifiably ranked and could probably beat a number of SEC teams, particularly from the East.
But how Vanderbilt was defeated has to be discouraging for its fans. They were thoroughly beaten, 34-0, making up for any shortcomings on Houston's part with a series of mistakes. The four turnovers only tell part of the story. The quarterback situation doesn't seem to get any better, with Johnny McCrary and Kyle Shurmur combining to go 5-of-20 passing for 44 yards and three interceptions, which works out to a nearly invisible passer efficiency rating of 13.48.
The Vanderbilt defense played reasonably well; Houston averaged 5.0 yards a play, and only 2.9 yards a run. But the defense couldn't do much to stop touchdown drives that only had to cover 5, 12 and 36 yards, not to mention a pick-six when the unit wasn't even on the field.
All of which leads to the same problem that has plagued this Vanderbilt defense over both seasons of Derek Mason's tenure: There is no offense to speak of, which could be more easily overlooked last year when the entire team was a shambles. But when there's a competent defense taking the field, it becomes more noticeable. And regardless of his defensive bona fides, Mason is responsible for fixing that side of the ball as well.
There's also a historical note here: The AAC now has two wins against the SEC, and the other one is not exactly on the cheap, Memphis having beaten Ole Miss. That's plenty of ammunition for those who want to argue that the conference isn't what it used to be, regardless of how good the AAC teams might be.