Writers in our business spend months during college football’s interminable preseason talking circuit, carefully crafting their prognostications complete with a myriad of facts to back them up until we feel fully confident in what we write for you. Sometimes we look smart; sometimes, like after week one of this college football season, we wonder what we did it for—gone in five minutes! Ask South Carolina about that, and ask Vanderbilt.
The chorus of “I told you so” is deafening, and perhaps all true. Vanderbilt was a miserable program until James Franklin, and will immediately be a miserable program after James Franklin it has been said. For one night at least, they were all correct.
Vanderbilt’s dismal 37-7 loss to 2-10 Temple in the season opener was as terrible a performance ever, by any Vanderbilt football team, as anyone has ever seen—and there have been a lot of them over the years. The Commodores showed zero intensity, zero emotion, zero heart, zero confidence, and zero organization. The coaching staff showed zero aptitude, and the hour-and-a-half storm delay that caused a 9:52 pm kickoff was not the reason.
Three nights later, on the eastern side of the state, another football program was spreading its wings. Tennessee showed everything Vanderbilt did not, rolling to an equally surprising 38-7 win over Utah State. The defense flew around the field, Justin Worley looked mature under center, and the Vols played the kind of football not seen in years.
But it was not just the results of these games, but the manner in which they were done. Many are saying both programs returned to their true form. I say it is only one game, and you cannot truly know your team after one game. But the opener sets the tone and creates the culture for the season. Both fan bases have to feel things are back to their normal order, or are certainly headed there.
Next for the Volunteers is Arkansas State, winners over Montana State in their opener. They feature a prolific passing attack, but if the Vols assert their will like they did on Sunday night, the Big Orange will easily be 2-0.
Next for the Commodores is #15 Ole Miss, winners over Boise State in Atlanta last week. In an ill-conceived and just plain terrible idea, this game will be played at LP Field. Not only will Vandy have no home field advantage, but expect the majority of those in attendance to be supporting the Rebels. Their fan base is excited and with good reason. You know how Commodore Nation is feeling.
Elsewhere in college football, the game of the week is #7 Michigan State at #3 Oregon. Each defeated FCS teams handily in week one. This game will be about tempo. The Spartans want to exert their power, while the Ducks hope to run rings around them. I think Michigan State matches up very well, but can they win in one of the most difficult venues in the country?
Within the SEC, it is cupcake city, the argument for nine conference games instead of eight. Missouri faces the biggest challenge, going on the road for some reason to play a good Toledo team. South Carolina faces East Carolina, the Gamecocks hurting from the 52-28 whipping they took at home to Texas A&M. Those Aggies play Lamar in one of three SEC vs. FCS matchups on the weekend. Kentucky vs. Ohio is a game under the radar, though the Wildcats look much improved.