Vanderbilt Commodores

EVANSTON, IL- SEPTEMBER 03: P.J. Fleck head coach of the Western Michigan Broncos reacts after his teams win against the Northwestern Wildcats on September 3, 2016 at Ryan Field in Evanston, Illinois. the Western Michigan Broncos won 22-21. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

PJ Fleck tells Cubs to Row the Boat, and a brief look at longest conference title droughts in college football

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The World Series gets underway tonight in Cleveland. The Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs are each looking to bring an end to a championship drought that dates back over 70 years. The Cubs are playing in their first World Series since 1945. The Indians have been back to the Fall Classic a small handful of times since last winning a World Series in 1948. There are three college football programs from the Power Five that have similar droughts they continue to look to end, as far as a conference championship is concerned.

No team has waited as long to win a conference title than Iowa State, who last saw a conference championship in 1912. That came in the old Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association. That conference would pave the path to the old Big Eight Conference, which of course later merged with departing members from the Southwest Conference. As the conference has evolved, Iowa State has struggled to compete for a conference crown.

The only two conference championship droughts comparable to the current droughts of the Cubs and Indians reside in the SEC. Mississippi State has not won a conference championship since 1941 (SEC), and Vanderbilt has to go all the way back to 1923 for its last conference title (Southern Conference). Playing in the same conference as college football powers like Alabama, LSU, Florida, Tennessee and Georgia over the years has not allowed for much opportunity for either SEC program, and that likely will remain the case for many years to come.

While not quite as long of a wait, Western Michigan looks to be on track to snapping their conference championship drought that goes back to 1988. The Broncos are undefeated and have a favorable schedule the rest of the way, aside from a regular season finale against Toledo. Western Michigan head coach PJ Fleck gave the Cubs a pep talk during a stop on SportsCenter this morning.

Row the boat, Cubs (or Indians, depending on your rooting interests)!

Longest Conference Title Droughts By Conference

ACC: North Carolina State (1979)

Big 12: Iowa State (1912)

Big Ten: Minnesota (1967)

Pac-12: Arizona (1993)

SEC: Vanderbilt (1923)

American: Temple (1967)

Conference USA: Rice (1994)

MAC: Ohio (1968)

Mountain West Conference: New Mexico (1964)

Sun Belt Conference: New Mexico State (1978)

At UGA’s expense, Vandy gets first SEC road win of Derek Mason era

Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason gets dunked by his payers after defeating Georgia 17-16 in an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, in Athens, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Associated Press

Derek Mason entered the 2016 on the hot seat according to many if not most observers.  If that were indeed the case, said seat may have gotten a little cooler thanks to today’s events.

Despite seeing its defense strafed for 346 passing yards off the arm of true freshman Jacob Eason, Vanderbilt managed to contain Georgia’s running game and come away with a 17-16 win over the Bulldogs between the hedges.  And “contain” actually doesn’t do Vandy’s defense justice as they held UGA to just 2.1 yards per carry in 35 rushing attempts.

Preseason All-SEC running back Nick Chubb, who came into the game averaging 5.5 yards per carry, was held to a 2.5 average by the Commodores defense.

The win marked Vandy’s first on the road in SEC play since Nov. 23, 2013, the year prior to Mason’s arrival.  The streak had reached nine straight losses prior to today’s win

From UGA’s perspective, it’s significant as well, albeit in the opposite direction.

After a successful start to his head coaching career, Kirby Smart has seen his Bulldogs stumble of late.

Georgia began 2016 with three straight wins. Since, the Bulldogs have dropped three of their last four. Two of those losses came in Athens.

UGA DL Jonathan Ledbetter’s suspension ends at six games

A Georgia player snaps his chinstrap before an NCAA college football game against Alabama Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015, in Athens, Ga. Georgia players wore the number 33 on their helmets in honor of Southern wide receiver Devon Gales (33), who suffer a spinal injure in last Saturday's game agains Georgia. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
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Halfway through the 2016 regular season, Jonathan Ledbetter has officially climbed out of Kirby Smart‘s doghouse.

The Georgia head coach announced Tuesday that Ledbetter’s suspension has come to an end and the defensive lineman will be eligible to play in this Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt.  Ledbetter served what turned out to be a six-game suspension to open the season because of a pair of off-field incidents this past offseason.

In July, Ledbetter was arrested on a pair of alcohol-related charges. Four months earlier, he was again arrested on another pair alcohol-related charges.

Shortly after his second arrest, Ledbetter acknowledged in a statement that he has “a problem” with alcohol and will “continue to receive additional treatment for this disease.”

After playing in seven games as a true freshman in 2015, Ledbetter had been expected to compete for an increased role in the Bulldogs’ defensive line rotation this season.  Whether he meets those expectations beginning this weekend will depend on how the next couple of days go.

We’re excited to have him back him,” Smart said. “How much he’ll play will depend on how (he practices this week.)”

SEC overturns Florida WR Brandon Powell’s half-game suspension for phantom punch

GAINESVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 03: Brandon Powell #4 of the Florida Gators scores on a 77 yard touchdown reception during the second quarter of the game against the Mississippi Rebels on October 3, 2015 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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Fortunately for both Brandon Powell and Florida, common sense in the league office prevailed.

In the fourth quarter of UF’s loss to Tennessee, Powell was flagged for an unsportsmanlike call and ejected from the game for seemingly throwing a punch at a Vols player.  Because of SEC rules, Powell was also set to be suspended from the first half of this Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt.

The conference, however, overturned the suspension upon review, no doubt determining that Vols safety Rashaan Gaulden performed a flop of such magnitude that it would’ve made an international soccer star stand up and cheer, then bow down and claim they’re not worthy.

We’ve received word that he’ll go,” head coach Jim McElwain said Wednesday. “Nothing from there, so he was full go from Monday afternoon on.”

Powell is currently second on the team with 15 receptions for 145 yards and two touchdowns.

SEC rebounds from putrid Week 1 with perfect non-conference Week 2

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 07:  An 'SEC' logo is seen on an end zone pylon before the Missouri Tigers take on the Auburn Tigers during the SEC Championship Game at Georgia Dome on December 7, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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The obituaries for the mighty SEC flowed fast and free following Week 1, with The Big Football Conference That Suddenly Couldn’t watching as half of its team went down in defeat.  The last time seven of the current SEC teams lost the same opening weekend, the conference had just added Arkansas and South Carolina as members in 1992 and Missouri and Texas A&M weren’t even in the league.

As noted Southern football historian Mark Twain once opined, though, the SEC’s death may have been greatly exaggerated.  Possibly.

In Week 2, the 14-team SEC went a collective 12-2.  The two losses?  Mississippi State of the SEC West dropping South Carolina of the SEC East and Florida, yet again, embarrassing divisional “rival” Kentucky.  In other words, the league went unbeaten in non-conference play.

If you’d like — why do I get the feeling many will take advantage of this generosity? — you can attach a giant asterisk or caveat or whatever big-sounding word you want to the undefeated bounce-back.

Of the 10 non-conference wins, four came against FCS teams — a two-point escape for Georgia in one of those — while another four came against Group of Five programs.  Tennessee handling Virginia Tech and Arkansas stunning TCU in double overtime marked the lone “signature” wins for the conference.

Still, after the pabulum that was Week 1, the SEC needed something like this in Week 2 to right a national perception ship that had been listing mightily.