Next up for Alabama Football are the Vanderbilt Commodores, Saturday night in Tuscaloosa. Crimson Tide fans who have not kept up with the Dores may be surprised by the next opinion. Vanderbilt is not the worst team in the SEC. My take is the Dores are better than Auburn, probably better than Missouri and possibly better than South Carolina.
Vanderbilt has won three games over weak competition; Hawaii, Elon and most recently, Northern Illinois. How bad is the trio who lost to Vandy? Hawaii is worse than ULM and that is saying something. Elon, according to Jeff Sagarin, is No. 154 in his combined FBS and FCS rankings. Sagarin has Northern Illinois at No. 107. As a point of reference, Sagarin has ULM at No. 153 and Hawaii at No. 162.
The single loss for Vandy was 45-25 to a pretty good Wake Forest team.
After the Wake Forest loss, Vanderbilt Head Coach, Clark Lea made a change at starting quarterback. Instead of junior starter Mike Wright, Lea went with true freshman, AJ Swann. Swann delivered for the Dores, on the road against NIU. He was 18-for-28 for 255 yards and four touchdown passes, with no interceptions.
Lea deserves credit for making the bold move. In Vandy’s first two wins, Mike Wright rushed for 247 yards, at an average of 10.3 yards-per-carry. Wake Forest made stopping Wright a priority and he was held to 17 yards on eight carries. As a passer, Wright has completed 60% of his passes for 426 yards and six touchdowns, with a single interception.
As impressive as Wright was in Vandy’s first two games, Clark Lea learned against Wake Forest that the Dores had to be more versatile.
Will the Vandy freshman start against the Alabama Football defense?
Clark Lea is not planning to let Nick Saban and Pete Golding know his starter in advance. After the NIU game, Lea said,
I’ll say the same thing that I said last week. It’s an ‘earn-it-every-day’ mentality… we’re gonna go home and unpack the performance and look at ways we can get better offensively. But we know we have really three guys — with Ken (Seals) too — that have won football games for us.
In the Vandy playbook, there must be a package that puts both Swann and Wright into the game at the same time. Vandy has a good running back in Re’Mahn (Ray) Davis whose rushing average is 5.1 yards-per-carry, but Wright would provide an added dimension.
Vanderbilt also has good receivers in Will Sheppard and Jayden McGowan. Vandy’s big problem on Saturday will be stopping the Alabama Football offense. Not much success is expected.
My personal opinion is any season Vanderbilt is better than the SEC’s worst team, is good for the conference. They don’t get to play Auburn this season and that’s a shame.