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Texas A&M Football

SEC Round-Up: Struggling Vanderbilt still capable of the occasional surprise

September 24, 2020

Times are tough in Nashville’s West End.

Vanderbilt has not posted a winning football season since coach James Franklin left for Penn State in 2013.

The Commodores managed just three victories last season. They’ve had more offensive linemen (4) than that opt-out. Senior Drew Birchmeier, a returning starter at defensive tackle, was shifted to offense. Either Birchmeier or Connor Mignone (a transfer from Central Connecticut) is expected to start at left guard.

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Vanderbilt safety Tae Daley (3) surprisingly elected to enter the transfer portal.

“We’ve got some young guys who are still working their way up and working their way back from quarantine,” Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason said this week. “This needs to be fluid. I’ve got starters and starters-in-waiting.”

Perhaps, but the Commodores are expected to start the season on Saturday against No. 10 Texas A&M with true freshman Ken Seals at quarterback. Projected starting running back Jamauri Wakefield, a senior, has rushed for just 475 yards total in his three previous seasons. Vanderbilt’s top defensive back, safety Tae Daley, entered the transfer portal last week.

Some think Vanderbilt could be historically weak. That’s alarming considering the Commodores’ modest history.

Mason, who is 27-47 in six seasons, could be in danger of losing his job. That is, if anyone at Vanderbilt really cares, which has become a legitimate question.

Food served to the team this summer was so poor that team parents reportedly began catering meals. A broken air conditioning system in the weight room went unfixed for two months. Fans — what’s left of them — wonder what is being done with the nearly $50 million in payouts from the SEC.

Despite those issues, Vanderbilt has managed to pull off an occasional surprise under Mason.

Last season, the Commodores upset Missouri, 21-14. Two years ago, they closed with consecutive victories over Ole Miss and Tennessee. They even beat Georgia in 2016.

“We’re going to have to look at playing several young guys, and that’s OK. We’ve had to play young guys before.”
- Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason

Still, most doubt Vandy will manage a victory this year. Vanderbilt is a 29.5-underdog to Texas A&M.

“You play 10 SEC opponents. You know what you’re getting every week,” Mason said. “We’re going to have to look at playing several young guys, and that’s OK. We’ve had to play young guys before.

“We’re fully-equipped to figure out what tactical and strategical moves are going to be needed and necessary for us to function in 2020.”

Functioning. That indeed might be the goal for Vanderbilt this season.

Around the SEC

This week’s games: Vanderbilt at No. 10 Texas A&M; No. 5 Florida at Ole Miss; No. 23 Kentucky at No. 8 Auburn; Mississippi State at No. 6 LSU; No. 4 Georgia at Arkansas; No. 2 Alabama at Missouri; No. 16 Tennessee at South Carolina.

Who’s hot: The Tennessee Volunteers closed the 2019 season on a six-game winning streak. They hope to continue that roll in the season-opener against South Carolina. Interestingly, their win streak started with a 41-21 victory over the Gamecocks.

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Alabama linebacker Dylan Moses makes his return this week after missing 2019.

Who’s not: Arkansas enters the season on a nine-game losing streak. Further, the Razorbacks have not defeated an SEC opponent since rallying to topple Ole Miss, 38-37, on Oct. 28, 2017. That’s 19 consecutive conference losses. The Sam Pittman-era begins against Georgia, so look for the skid to reach 20.

Keep an eye on: Alabama linebacker Dylan Moses returns to action after missing last season with a keen injury. Without him, Alabama ranked 37th in the nation in run defense in 2019. With him, the Tide was ranked 19th against the run in 2018. He makes that big of a difference.

The pressure is on: Who could possibly face more pressure than LSU quarterback Myles Brennan? He only replaces Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow, who led the Tigers to the national championship. Brennan has thrown more interceptions (3) than touchdown passes (2) thus far in his career. Also, he won’t have Justin Jefferson or Ja’Marr Chase to throw to. On the plus side, he faces Mississippi State’s pass defense, which was among the worst in the SEC in 2019.

Best matchup: Kentucky’s offensive line is lauded as one of the best in the SEC. Auburn’s defensive front is rebuilt, but the linebackers are exceptional. That sets up an interesting clash of Kentucky’s running game against Auburn’s run defense. The Wildcats have a shot at an upset but must run effectively to pull it off.

Discussion from...

SEC Round-Up: Struggling Vanderbilt still capable of the occasional surprise

1,390 Views | 2 Replies | Last: 1 mo ago by Agsuffering@bulaw
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...Dylan Moses returns to action after missing last season with a keen injury....
I'm guessing 'keen' = knee...?

CB, '67

Sometimes if you want a different answer, you have to ask a different question.
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Pitiful situation. After 2020, the league should pressure them to do better. Ridiculous that they could not get the air conditioner fixed or feed their athletes properly.
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