Times continue to change for Vanderbilt fans. In the past by late September Vandy fans would often…
Vandy on target with 2014 schedule
Just a couple years ago folks where howling to get Ohio State off Vandy's 2013 schedule, complaining that there was little chance of VU picking up a win in Columbus. The Buckeyes were actually taken off the Commodores' lineup for this season although it was due to an SEC scheduling conflict with new conference members Missouri and Texas A&M joining the league.
Now, after a 9-4 season, some want Vanderbilt to play a tougher out of conference schedule. I disagree with this for several reasons. First off, there is nothing wrong with these four non-conference opponents that Vandy has scheduled for 2014. Wake Forest is from one of the tougher conferences in American. While Vandy has given them beat downs over the past two seasons, the results against the Demon Deacons have been far from favorable at times. Jim Grobe is a respected coach who has taken that team to the ACC championship. They've been down a couple years but you can be sure that Grobe will have the Deacons strong again soon. Heck, I remember just a couple seasons ago VU fans wishing Wake was off the schedule because the Commodores couldn't beat them.
Temple, while no juggernaut, has won 30 games over the past four years. This is not the same Owl team that Vandy handled in Nashville under Bobby Johnson a few years ago. That Temple team was booted out of the Big East for being so pathetic but has since been invited back and is now with the re-named Big East, The American Athletic Conference.
Last season was UMass' first as an FBS school. It was a rough one for the Minutemen who finished 1-11. However, by 2014 you can expect this emerging team to be improved. Old Dominion will be in its second year as an FBS team by 2014 and will be a member of the Conference USA.
Some Vandy supporters want to stick their chests out and take on more formidable non-conference opponents. I say Vanderbilt needs to schedule smart like the rest of the SEC does. Our SEC brethren, while not as highly regarded academically as Vandy, are very good with math. They know the rigors of the SEC and know that their followers get antsy sitting home for the holidays while other fans go on bowl trips. Face it, unless you are Alabama or LSU it's not automatic that you are going to get even two wins in the SEC. We saw the nose dive Arkansas took last season after several strong years. Mississippi State is another example. They went 9-4 in 2010 and then barely made it to a bowl in 2011, finishing 7-6. Look at Tennessee and their recent struggles. Last season Vandy had a very favorable SEC schedule and took advantage of it. That is not always going to be the case with the conference slate. Vandy needs to keep the non-conference schedule manageable like the rest of the SEC does.
Realize too that the SEC, having won seven straight national championships, has a target on its back. Remember a couple years ago when Northwestern came to Nashville and in a close game the Big Ten officials made that horrendous late helmet-to-helmet call that swayed the game to the Wildcats. Yes, opponents generally bring their own conference's officials with them. These officials often see things the way they want to.
Sure a home and home with Illinois, Virginia or Texas Tech would be a sexier home schedule lineup. However, we need to realize that the development of winning Vanderbilt football is a work in progress. There's been much praise of head coach James Franklin and his systematic approach to turning the program into a winner. You can bet this 2014 non-conference schedule was not put together without his input. Vandy fans will need to support the coach and trust in him or he might decide to head somewhere else.
If anything, this 2014 non-conference schedule is a further indication that the VU administration is now willing to shell out the money for the program. Home and home arrangements are the most cost effective ways of scheduling. Unless there are home and home arrangements we don't know about, I guarantee you Vandy is shelling out some money for these games with UMass, Temple, Old Dominion. In that past this would not have been done.
The best thing for Vanderbilt is to keep going bowls. As long as they do that the Commodores will continue to improve and their brand will be associated with winning. Bowls are good; they help with recruiting, make the school money. The players even get money and gifts when they go to bowls. Fans like them. It's also an extra spring practice for the team so coaches get extra time to work with younger players.
Yes, in 2014 you might think the non-conference schedule is kind of blah but remember the SEC slate will give the 'Dores plenty of games against quality opponents. Then, after the regular season, you can get excited about playing another quality team in a bowl game.
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