Countdown to Football

38 Days

Vanderbilt Preseason Preview

“The way I look at it is we have an opportunity to do something really special at Vanderbilt. We have an opportunity to differentiate ourselves. I really believe there’s very few schools that are going to be able to compete with us when it comes to recruiting because we have an opportunity to offer things that very few schools can.” – James Franklin.

Franklin won the Spirit Award at SEC media days as no other coach entered Birmingham with as much enthusiasm as him.  This is a coach that has taken over the nation’s most difficult program and has made wild accusations that he may actually turn it into something special.

And he’s absolutely on point when he says that Vanderbilt has the potential to do so.

Competing in the SEC is never easy.  Even teams with a tradition of competing for championships go through stretches of time where they struggle to get 8 or 9 wins.  Parity in the SEC is well known, but for Vanderbilt, one would think they are at a disadvantage because of their academic requirements.

But make no mistake.  Vanderbilt could be in the perfect position to build their program.

They are in Nashville, TN – by far the most interesting, lively city to host an SEC school.  They do provide the best academics out of any of the SEC schools.  They do provide the chance to compete athletically against the best.

Sound familiar?  Stanford nods in agreement.

There’s reason to believe that if Vanderbilt can hire a great coach, they can make noise in the SEC.

I believe James Franklin has a chance to be that guy.

Three Questions about Vanderbilt

1. Who is Vanderbilt?

Vanderbilt returns every starter on offense, and from everything I’ve read, there’s a chance not one of them starts again this season.  That’s how poorly they performed last season.  While veteran players are good for leadership and experience, if they have no talent, what good can they contribute?

Vanderbilt has to find an identity especially at quarterback.

2. Who is James Franklin?

What kind of offense does he run?  Is he more aggressive on defense, or does he like to play it safe?  Will he be like Frank Beamer on special teams or more like Tommy Tuberville?  Will his schtick actually work?  Will his enthusiasm still be the same when he’s down 42-0 against an SEC opponent?

Franklin is a likeable guy.  He seems to genuinely believe in Vanderbilt.  But there have been many coaches to believe in Vanderbilt, and only one of those in recent history has gotten them to a bowl game.

3. Will Vanderbilt regain the support from the fans?

In 2008, Vanderbilt put together a respectable season.  They started 5-0, beat Auburn, held it close in many of their losses, and won a bowl game.

Fan support was at an all time high.  In 2009 and 2010, Vanderbilt eked out 4 wins and lost that fan support they had developed the year before.

Franklin has to get that fan support back.

Most Important Game

10/15 Georgia.

Vanderbilt will face a tough stretch in week 4 and week 6 going to South Carolina and also going to Alabama.  Luckily, they get a bye between those games.

Vanderbilt will most likely be blown out by both of those teams.  However, it is crucial that Franklin keeps the team motivated, and in order to prove to them that early losses are not a big deal, he must have them ready to perform well against Georgia at home.

I’m not predicting a victory or even expecting one, but after those two difficult away games, if Vanderbilt can be competitive against Georgia, it could turn things around for the remainder of the season.

Realistic Expectations

Vanderbilt has a terrible team.  Make no mistake about it.  Excitement can be through the roof, but 2-3 wins may be all they can muster.

However, with Franklin’s personality, I don’t see why Vanderbilt can’t expect a bit more.  He seems like the kind of guy who will go after punt blocks.  The kind that will try a hail mary just to see if they can get a spark.  The kind of guy that will throw in a few trick plays to catch the opposing defense off guard.

He definitely doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who will back down to any opponent.

Vanderbilt should set a goal to beat their nonconference opponents this season.  That gets them to 4 wins with a respectable victory against Connecticut who played in a BCS bowl game last season.

Maybe they can squeeze out a victory against Ole Miss or Kentucky, but I wouldn’t fault them if they couldn’t.

This is Franklin’s year to build.  He’s done well in recruiting.  Let’s see how he does on the field.

38 Days

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