Vanderbilt achieves first winning season since 1982

Thanks to their 17-16 victory over Boston College in the Music City Bowl on New Year’s Eve Day, the Vanderbilt Commodores secured their first winning season since 1982 and just their fourth seven-win season in the past 50 years.

The last time Vandy made a bowl appearance was 26 years ago, so it was a pretty cool site seeing their players douse head coach Bobby Johnson when Myron Lewis intercepted a Dominique Davis’ pass with under two minutes remaining in the game to cap the win.

Despite the loss, this was a pretty impressive year by BC. Not many college football pundits thought they would do much this season after Matt Ryan was drafted, but they went to the Big East Championship and a bowl game, which speaks volumes to the job head coach Jeff Jagodzinksi did this year.

Hopefully both of these teams remain competitive next year, because they were fun to watch in 2008.

By the way, Vandy’s D.J. Moore declared for the NFL Draft following the game. That guy was a sick returner this year.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

College Football Week 8 Primer

Top 25 vs. Top 25

Colt McCoyNo. 11 Missouri at No. 1 Texas, 8:00 PM ET
For their first game after being crowned number one in the land, surely the Longhorns would rather face a Big 12 cupcake than a pissed off Tigers team reeling from suffering their first loss of the season. But at least Colt McCoy and Co. don’t have to worry about suffering a letdown after their thrilling win over top rival Oklahoma last weekend. Speaking of McCoy, he’s been nearly perfect this season, completing 79.4% of his passes and compiling 17 touchdowns to just three interceptions. He’ll get the chance to light up a suspect MIZZOU defense, although don’t expect Heisman candidate Chase Daniel to have back to back bad games, especially against a UT defensive unit that was destroyed by Sam Bradford and the Sooners. Remarkably, Daniel and the Tigers have scored in 23 of 24 quarters this season. Oddsmakers have made MIZZOU a 7-point underdog.

No. 16 Kansas at No. 4 Oklahoma, 3:30 PM ET
Despite walking away with victories, the Jayhawks have not played very sharp the past two weeks. In their 12-1 campaign last season, KU didn’t have to face the powerhouse programs of the Big 12, but they’re not as fortunate this year. Neither team is running the ball as well as they would like, but the Sooners will be looking to make a statement after losing to Texas last week. If sophomore QB Sam Bradford could hang 35 points on the Longhorns, imagine what he’ll do to the Jayhawks. Still, Kansas isn’t a pushover and is looking to make a statement in the polls as well.

No. 22 Vanderbilt at No. 10 Georgia, 12:30 PM ET
One might assume that since the Commodores suffered a crushing blow last week to Mississippi that they’d roll over and play dead this week in Athens. But Vandy has enough speed and athleticism to contain UGA’s explosive offense and they should be able to keep things close. The hard part will be containing QB Matthew Stafford and RB Knowshon Moreno for four quarters, however. And if the ‘Dores can’t come up with a turnover or two, the Dogs should pull away in the end. Still, expect a bounce back week for Vandy, who could expose a young UGA secondary ranked 11th in the SEC.

Javon Ringer
No. 12 Ohio State at No. 20 Michigan State, 3:30 PM ET
It’ll be interesting to see if the Spartans can catch the Buckeyes looking ahead to their date next week with No. 3 Penn State. OSU has had a tough time moving anywhere in the rankings since being blown out by USC in mid-September, but they could use the next two weeks to make a huge statement to voters. MSU is playing awfully well right now, especially on offense where QB Brian Hoyer has provided balance with the dynamic running style of Javon Ringer. Since making a splash against Troy, Buckeye freshman QB Terrelle Pryor has leveled off in recent weeks, throwing for just 104 yards per game and one touchdown in his last three outings. RB Beanie Wells also seems to still be suffering lingering effects from an early-season toe injury as he rushed for only 94 yards on 22 carries last week against Purdue. Next Saturday’s PSU-OSU matchup should be great, but Sparty isn’t going to be a pushover this week in East Lansing.

Upset Watch:No. 9 BYU at TCU, Thursday, October 16
The Cougars arguably get their first test of the season against a Horned Frogs team that has already faced the likes of Oklahoma. TCU’s defense will provide a challenge BYU QB Max Hall and the high-powered Cougar passing attack and even though he’s a backup, Frog’s QB Marcus Jackson has led the team to back-to-back wins. TCU is also incredibly tough to beat in Fort Worth, so beware a major upset on Thursday night. (Of course the last time I suggested that BYU could be upset, they beat UCLA 59-0.)

Oddsmakers know everything – Miss State upsets No. 13 Vanderbilt

Mississippi State-VanderbiltIt’s amazing what oddsmakers know. For example, entering Week 7, they established No. 13 Vanderbilt as a 2.5-point favorite over unranked Mississippi State.

Why on earth would the Commodores only be 2.5-point favorites? They were 5-0 for the first time since Moses parted the Red Sea, were coming off a huge win over SEC rival Auburn and they were playing a Bulldogs team that was 1-4 on the season.

Mississippi State 17, Vanderbilt 14. That’s why.

I don’t want to get into a huge gambling discussion because this isn’t the forum, but whenever a point spread looks too good to be true, it probably is. Vandy was clearly the better team coming into the game and should have been favored by at least two field goals, even with them playing on the road and against a conference foe.

It never ceases to amaze me how good these oddsmakers are at setting the lines for sporting events.

On to a more football-related topic – what a game by the Bulldog defense. They held the Commodores to only 107 yards of total offense, forced two turnovers and didn’t turn the ball over themselves. (Which is significant because Vandy led the nation in turnover margin coming into the game.)

Coupling this one with Ole’ Miss’s win over Florida two weeks ago, the state of Mississippi is the king of the upset this year.

Vanderbilt college football’s new Cinderella

After they beat Virginia Tech and West Virginia earlier in the year, many thought that East Carolina would be college football’s Cinderella team this season. But apparently the slipper fit better on Vanderbilt.

Thanks to a huge win over conference rival Auburn on Saturday, the Commodores are 5-0 for the first time since World War II. And only are they ranked 14th in the nation now, but some even believe they can win the SEC this season.

Vanderbilt1. That Vandy could win the SEC East.
I know, I know. You’re going to say I’m getting “caught up in the hype,” perhaps hypnotized by what had to be the headiest set of signs in GameDay history (“What’s worse: Auburn’s offense or the economy?”). Yes, the Commodores barely squeaked by an Auburn squad with that aforementioned anemic offense. Yes, they only gained 263 yards of their own (albeit with their backup quarterback leading the way.) But have you seen the rest of Vandy’s schedule?

The ‘Dores are 3-0 in the SEC and play at least two more teams — Mississippi State and Tennessee — they should beat (when’s the last time you could say that?) The other three are Georgia, Florida and Kentucky. Vandy’s probably not going to win in Athens — but Georgia’s probably going to lose another conference game. The Kentucky game is a toss-up. That leaves Florida in Nashville. The ‘Dores nearly beat the Gators in both 2005 and ’06, and this team, unlike those Vandy squads, doesn’t fold, outscoring foes 58-10 in the second half. Anything’s possible.

It has been an amazing ride so far for Vandy and personally, I hope it continues. For years they’ve been the whipping boys in the SEC and finally they’ve given their fans a contender. Sure, a lot of their success has come because of a very opportunistic defense (they lead the nation in turnover margin), but good teams find ways to make their own breaks. They’re exciting to watch and it’ll be interesting to see if the Commodores are really this good or if it’s all hype.

College Football Week 6 Primer

Time to check out the big games, top matchups and potential upsets as college football heads into Week 6.

Top 25 vs. Top 25:
Terrelle PryorNo. 14 Ohio State at No. 18 Wisconsin, 8:00 PM ET
This was supposed to be a matchup of the best two teams in the Big Ten, but after the Badgers were embarrassed last week in Ann Arbor, this game has lost a lot of it’s luster. Despite Michigan turning the ball over five times and spotting them a 19-0 lead, Wisconsin fell apart in the second half as the Wolverines pulled off a 27-25 upset. For the Buckeyes, they seem to be playing with a chip on their shoulder after losing to USC a few weeks back, especially freshman QB Terrelle Pryor, who is out to use this game as proof that he can play on a big stage. It’ll be interesting to see how the dazzlingly Pryor does in his first road start of his young collegiate career; OSU has not won back-to-back games vs. Wisconsin since 1995/1996. Oddsmakers have established the Buckeyes as 1.5-point favorites.

No. 13 Auburn at No. 19 Vanderbilt, 6:00 PM ET
Vandy is off to a surprising 4-0 start this season, but their record is a bit deceiving. The Commodores rank last in the SEC in total offense and defense, and have been out gained in 3 of their 4 games this season. But they sit undefeated largely due to their plus-nine turnover margin, which leads the nation. They’ll get their first real test of the season against Auburn, who crushed the Commodores 45-7 in their last trip to Vanderbilt Stadium in 2003. The Tigers also handed Vandy a 35-7 beat-down last year and are trying to build some momentum off of last week’s 14-12 win against Tennessee. Still, this is the first time Vanderbilt has been ranked since 1984, so the home crowd will noty doubt be psyched. And it’s not like Tommy Tummerville’s team has been that dominant this season. (See the Tigers’ 3-2 victory over Mississippi State as proof.) Vandy is a 4.5-point home underdog.

No. 23 Oregon at No. 9 USC, 8:00 PM ET
The Trojans try to bounce back from their humiliating 27-21 loss to Oregon State last week – a defeat that dropped them from the top spot in the rankings. When these two teams met last year in Eugene, the Ducks used an electrifying home crowd to knock off the Trojans 24-17 in USC QB Mark Sanchez’s first start. It would be wise for Oregon to borrow the blueprint left by the Beavers and attack the middle of the Trojans’ beat up defense on the ground. Head coach Pete Carroll is dying to use this game to show USC can still compete for a national title this season and will try to flatten the Ducks, but Oregon’s defense is good enough to keep them in the game. The Trojans are currently 17-point favorites.

Chase DanielUpset Watch: No. 4 Missouri at Nebraska, 9:00 PM ET
It’s hard to fathom that the Tigers would stumble this week in Lincoln coming off a bye week and with so much on the line. But Heisman Trophy candidate Chase Daniel has yet to see a decent defense outside of Illinois in the opener. And even though MIZZOU hammered the Huskers last year, Nebraska’s defense is a lot better than the unit that surrendered 41 points to Daniel and the Tigers last year. Missouri has better talent and the better overall team, but one thing to keep in mind is that the home team in this series has won the last six in a row. MIZZOU is an 11-point favorite.

Other notable games:
No. 1 Oklahoma at Baylor, 12:30 PM ET Saturday
The Sooners play their first game since being anointed the top ranked team in the nation. They get a decent opponent in the Bears, who have been a dramatically improved team with scrappy freshman Robert Griffin under center this year.

Kentucky at No. 2 Alabama, 3:30 PM ET Saturday
After crushing the Bulldogs in Athens last week, Nick Saban’s Tide can’t fall victims to the upset themselves this week against the unranked Wildcats.

No. 5 Texas at Colorado, 7:00 PM ET Saturday
Longhorns’ QB Colt McCoy will look to continue his bid to become this year’s Heisman Trophy winner, but he’ll face a decent Colorado team who is 3-0 at home this year.

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