Vanderbilt Commodores

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No. 1 Alabama is business as usual in 59-0 win at Vanderbilt

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There is certainly no shame in losing a head-to-head matchup against Alabama, but Vanderbilt (3-1, 0-1 SEC) will have almost nothing to be proud of after being demolished and paved over by No. 1 Alabama (4-0, 1-0 SEC) at home on national TV.

Damien Harris led an overpowering running game for Alabama with 151 yards and three touchdowns. Bo Scarbrough added 79 yards and two scores to the box score. As a team, Alabama rushed for 501 yards, gashing Vanderbilt on the ground on the way to 42 first downs. Vanderbilt had just three first downs in the game.

If there was a turning point in a 59-0 game, it must have come on the opening drive of the game. Vanderbilt had the game’s opening drive extended courtesy of a roughing the passer penalty on Alabama’s Anfernee Jennings. On the next play, Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmur was picked off by Ronnie Harrison to hand the ball over to Alabama. Vanderbilt’s defense did respond by forcing a punt. Alabama would get the ball rolling on their next offensive possession. The game was essentially decided at that point, because Alabama never looked back.

So where do we go from here?

For Alabama, another week down means quickly turning the page to the next objective. The Crimson Tide host Ole Miss next week for a night game. The Rebels have given Alabama some trouble in recent years and will hope to pull a major stunner next week in Tuscaloosa. Vanderbilt will look to rebound next week on the road in Gainesville against Florida.

Alabama dropping anchor on Vandy’s upset dream, leads 31-0 at half

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Vanderbilt came into the afternoon with the SEC’s top-ranked scoring defense. Yeah, about that…

No. 1 Alabama scored touchdowns on three straight offensive possessions to build a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and the Crimson Tide lead the Commodores 31-0 at halftime in Nashville. Bo Scarbrough was responsible for two of the Alabama touchdowns, and Damien Harris has take credit for the other two. Jalen Hurts has even gotten in on the running game a little bit while not having the pressure to perform through the air in this one.

On defense, Alabama has held Vanderbilt down quite well too. The Commodores converted just one of six third down situations and the Vandy offense has lost the football twice by way of a fumble.

If you had hoped Vanderbilt could maybe keep this one interesting for at least a half, you were out of luck. Alabama is about to cruise its way to a 4-0 record.

SEC releases 2018 schedule

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The SEC released its 2018 slate on Tuesday, beginning the weekend of Sept. 1 and running through the SEC Championship on Saturday, Dec. 1. It would be entirely pointless to break down winners and losers of the ’18 slate considering we don’t really even know who’s good yet in 2017 — other than Alabama — and we especially don’t know who will be good in ’18 — other than ‘Bama, of course.

But we can point out some dates that look interesting as we sit here on Tuesday, Sept. 19, the year of our Lord 2017. And, no, intra-divisional games don’t count, since they are played every year.

  • Auburn vs. Washington — Sept. 1 (at Atlanta)
  • Alabama vs. Louisville — Sept. 1 (at Orlando)
  • LSU vs. Miami — Sept. 1 (at Dallas)
  • Tennessee vs. West Virginia (at Charlotte)
  • Clemson at Texas A&M — Sept. 8
  • Vanderbilt at Notre Dame — Sept. 15
  • Florida at Mississippi State — Sept. 29
  • Tennessee at Auburn — Oct. 13

Consult the full schedule here. 

Vandy upsets No. 18 K-State, wins first over ranked non-conference team in 70 years

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There were a lot of people who didn’t see this one coming, although I can guarantee you that the rest of the SEC East is sitting up and taking notice.

Coming into their Week 3 game against 18th-ranked Kansas State, Vanderbilt was somewhere between a 4-6-point underdog at home.  After 60 minutes Saturday night, Vandy proclaimed they could be a force to be reckoned with in conference play as a stifling defense played a huge role in dropping the Wildcats by the score of 14-7.

The Commodores took a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter, with the Wildcats tying it up very early in the second.  That 7-7 score would stay static for the next 36 minutes or so of game time until quarterback Kyle Shurmur‘s two-yard touchdown run (of course) proved to be the difference in the game.

K-State had a chance to tie the game late, but quarterback Jesse Ertz was stopped a yard short on a fourth-and-8 that originated from the Vandy 19-yard line.

Neither team did much offensively, with the Wildcats accounting for 277 yards of offense to the Commodores’ 270.  Vandy averaged 4.9 yards per play, K-State 4.4.

With the win, Vandy is 3-0 to start the season for the first time since 2011, James Franklin‘s first of three with the program.  This also marks the first time since 1946, a 7-0 win over No. 20 North Carolina State, that Vandy has beaten a ranked non-conference opponent.

With the struggles of Florida and Tennessee, Vandy is slowly becoming the trendy pick to challenge Georgia for SEC East supremacy.  Buyer beware on that front, though, as they will face No. 1 Alabama (home), No. 24 Florida (road), No. 13 Georgia (home) and undefeated Ole Miss (road) the next four weeks.

For now, though, the Commodores will bask in the glow of the biggest win, outside of last year’s upending of No.24 Tennessee, of Derek Mason‘s time in Nashville.

CFT 2017 Preseason Preview: The SEC

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The last few years have had a common theme in the SEC. Namely that the league has turned into mighty Alabama and 13 other mediocre programs. Despite the issues of breaking through and developing multiple elite teams as of late, there’s reason for optimism around the conference that things will be a lot different this time around.

Key to that could be the return of so many budding young quarterbacks at just about every school from East to West. Add in a few top-flight tailbacks like Georgia’s Nick Chubb, LSU’s Derrius Guice plus Alabama’s Bo Scarbrough — to say nothing of the elite defensive talent across the board — and you can see why there’s talk of the bunched up middle class of teams breaking out of this recent rut.

How will things shape up in the mighty SEC? Here’s a look at the conference heading into the 2017 campaign and how things should shake out:

EAST
1. Georgia (8-5 overall, 4-4 in SEC last season):
 We’ve seen new head coaches turn in some surprising jumps in their second year at a program and many expect that to be the case with Kirby Smart in Athens. That shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise given the weapons on offense and a two-deep on defense that is the envy of everybody but Alabama. If the Bulldogs can become more consistent and eliminate mental errors that plagued them in 2016, a run to Atlanta appears in the cards.

2. Florida (9-4, 6-2 last season): The Gators have taken advantage of the division’s weakness the past two years but will need to step up their game if they want a third straight trip to the league title game. The offensive line will be a strength for the squad and just about everybody expects improved quarterback play with Notre Dame transfer Malik Zaire likely starting under center. If the defense can quickly replace a number of key starters, the division may once again come down to the winner of the World’s Largest Cocktail Party between Florida and Georgia.

3. Tennessee (9-4, 4-4 last season): Despite winning nine games back-to-back for the first time in a decade, Butch Jones enters 2017 on the hot seat for a fan base that is looking for at least a division title (and probably a whole lot more). Expectations are tempered a little by the number of new starters on both sides of the ball but there’s enough to build around — such as tailback John Kelly — that the Vols should remain in contention down the stretch.

4. South Carolina (6-7, 3-5 last season): The Gamecocks surprised many by reaching a bowl game in 2016 despite a remarkable youth movement across the board at just about every position. QB Jake Bentley’s play proved to be a key catalyst once he was inserted into the lineup and there’s reason for optimism in Columbia that things will only get better after another offseason under Will Muschamp and company.

5. Vanderbilt (6-7, 3-5 last season): Success can be a fleeting thing for the Commodores but there’s plenty of hope around Nashville that the program’s trajectory is looking up after a strong close to last season unexpectedly put the team in a bowl game. Derek Mason has one of, if not the, most experienced teams coming back in the division and if the offense can improve even a little they could be a tough out in SEC play.

6. Kentucky (7-6, 4-4 last season): There are plenty of teams that are a preseason enigma but Mark Stoops’ side runs the entire gamut of predictions about how things will play out this year.  There is enough to like about the Wildcats both offensively and defensively but one has to question if that will be enough in such a competitive league with few openings to move up.

7. Missouri (4-8, 2-6 last season): One of the bigger surprises in the East was just how far the Tigers slid on defense, going from a normally stingy unit to lackluster at best in Barry Odom’s first year on the job. While the offense took the requisite steps to be more than passable, Mizzou’s future will be tied to an improvement on the other side of the ball.

WEST

1. Alabama (14-1 overall, 8-0 last season): There’s no reason to expect anything other than a dominant Crimson Tide team to take the field once again, running through the SEC before eventually moving on to the College Football Playoff. There are five-stars all over the two-deep once again and the offense might be one of the best the team has had in a while if youngsters continue to develop.

2. Auburn (8-5, 5-3 last season): Injuries played a big role in the disjointed season the Tigers had a year ago but that likely played a role in developing depth for a promising 2017 on the Plains. Gus Malzahn turned a transfer QB into a Heisman winner before and there’s plenty of hope that he can do so again with Jarrett Stidham running the show under center this time around.

3. LSU (8-4, 5-3 last season): The Ed Orgeron show continues in Baton Rouge and spirits are running high that this will finally — finally! — be the year the Tigers are competent on offense with new coordinator Matt Canada calling plays. Derrius Guice and Arden Key will be the headliners but there’s plenty of talent on the roster to take this team into Tuscaloosa with a fighting chance to win the division.

4. Texas A&M (8-5, 4-4 last season): There are few things more certain in college football than the Aggies getting off to a hot start before losing to Alabama and seeing their season backslide into an 8-5 year. Things look much the same for Kevin Sumlin again in College Station as he retools the offense with yet another new quarterback.

5. Mississippi State (6-7, 3-5 last season): It seems like we’ve talked about the Bulldogs being a dark horse for the past several years and the team will once again channel that heading into 2017. Nick Fitzgerald is already one of the better dual-threat QB’s in the conference and if gains can be made on defense, MSU will certainly surprise a few teams in the West.

6. Arkansas (7-6, 3-5 last season): The Hogs look like they’re a little better suited to contend in 2018 but a strong backfield to build around offensively will keep the team in just about every game on the schedule this season. If the defense takes another step, knocking off one of the big division rivals could certainly be in the cards.

7. Ole Miss (5-7, 2-6 last season): It’s possible the Rebels, backs firmly against the wall, take an us-against-them attitude and go wild behind talented sophomore QB Shea Patterson. Odds don’t favor that though, as this team has less talent than the one that won just two SEC games and could give up on the year with an interim head coach and even more NCAA sanctions looming on the horizon.