There was a time when Vanderbilt and its fans were in no position to take any opponent for granted. Those days are gone.
Commodores players and coaches preached respect all week, but in their heads and hearts they have to know that Saturday’s game against Austin Peay (6:30 p.m., Vanderbilt Stadium, CSS) was all but in the win column the moment it was added to the schedule.
Three reasons to think Vanderbilt will succeed Saturday:
• It’s a mismatch: Let’s face it, even the Rod Dowhower-era Commodores would have been a heavy favorite against this opponent. Austin Peay had never played an SEC team before last Saturday’s 45-0 loss to Tennessee and has had just 18 winning seasons in 76 years of football, the last in 2007. The Governors start a 245-pound defensive end and a 212-pound linebacker. Vanderbilt is 15-1 all-time against FCS opponents and has won its last five by a combined 227-49.
• Points a’plenty: Dating back to last season, Vanderbilt has scored 35 or more in seven of its last eight games (the exception was last season’s 27-26 victory at Ole Miss). Austin Peay failed to score any in its 2013 opener and last year scored 15 or fewer in each of its first seven games. There’s no reason to think the Governors will get going in this one.
• Jordan Matthews: The senior wide receiver made the list last week as well and – truth be told – he could be a default entry. The fact is Ole Miss double-covered him all game and still could not stop him – not even on fourth-and-18. How is Austin Peay going to find someone who can match up with him in any way. In the event Vanderbilt actually needs to make a play, count on him to make it.
Three reasons to think Vanderbilt will struggle Saturday:
• On the run: The Commodores had issues with running quarterbacks last season and struggled to contain Ole Miss’ Bo Wallace last week. Austin Peay’s No. 2, Jacob Sexton, was his team’s second-leading rusher with 25 yards in limited duty against UT. He offers an option the APSU coaches likely will want to explore at some point in this contest. And why not? Chances are nothing much is going to work so they might as well try everything.
• An unfamiliar opponent: Despite their proximity, Vanderbilt and Austin Peay never have played in football so the Governors conceivably could benefit from some element of surprise (i.e. the Commodores spend too much time trying to figure out if they’re really matched up against actual college players or the subject of some Betty White-conceived prank).
• Anything is possible: Three years ago, Jacksonville State beat Ole Miss. Two years ago Sacramento State topped Oregon State. Everyone remembers Appalachian State’s victory at Michigan. Truth be told, this one would be even more surprising. Austin Peay has defeated Vanderbilt once in men’s basketball (it also lost 12 times), once in women’s basketball (against 13 defeats) and 20 times in baseball (they have played 74 games).
The Bottom Line
There’s no real reason to think Vanderbilt will lose this game, or even be seriously challenged at any point.
Coming off last week’s heartbreaking loss, this is a good way for the Commodores to feel good about themselves, play a lot of people and get healthy in advance next week’s game at South Carolina.
Come early, see a couple quick scores and then go back to the rest of your regularly scheduled weekend activities.
POSTDATA: WARRANTY DEEDS