Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Daring to believe

Or, Why I Have Hope That Vandy Can Beat South Carolina.

* * *

As many of you know, I am an avid reader of the sundry fan-operated websites that discuss Vanderbilt sports, among them VandyMania.com and VandySports.com. I was reading there today (yes, yes, when I should have been reading Civil Procedure or Torts or some-such) about this weekend's SEC contest in Columbia between the goodly and faithful Vanderbilt Commodores and the impure and benighted South Carolina Gamecocks, coached by the evil Darth Visor himself.

Here is the post that brought hope to my impending weekend:

Statistical Break-down:
VANDERBILT AT SOUTH CAROLINA

Our record this season against teams we were good enough to beat: 4-1
Our record this season against the Top 10: 0-2

- Comment: We're good enough to beat S.C., no doubt, and in that
position so far we're only a blocked FG attempt from being 5-0

Our record this season on the road: 2-0
Our record this season in the SEC: 2-2

- See above. 2-0 against the "Bottom Six". SC is in the Bottom Six.

Our record this season in games decided by 8 points or less: 3-1
Our record this season as road underdog: 2-0

- I picked 8 because that's the line. If you think we will lose by
much more than that to SC there's no point in continuing to read this
post.

S.C.'s rushing offense: 188 yards per game
Our record this season when rushing for 188 yards or more: 2-0

- I think we'll run it through and around them until they can stop us.
It's this type of running attack that got us off to a 2-0 start in the
SEC. I think that if we fix our special teams problems, the trends
are in our favor. Add to that an opponent that will come out flat and
looking ahead. If we take this game to them early on we have an
excellent chance of coming out with a win.


* * *

I was so inspired by this quote, that I emailed it, spam-style, to a couple of close friends and brothers. Replying with his own thoughts was Mark Halling, BYX -- Vanderbilt Nu '03. It was a fascinating anaylsis, and it was both thorough and well-considered.

I believe sharing it would provide further hope for this weekend:

In my estimation, there are three classes of SEC teams...

Upper Division
Upper Division teams beat Lower Division teams with 95% success and Middle Division teams with 80% success. They usually go undefeated in conference play, with perhaps one non-conference loss to a BCS-caliber team. The only competitive games are among each other -- among the best teams in the nation.
This season,
1) Georgia, 6-0 (4)
2) Alabama, 6-0 (5)
3) LSU, 4-1 (9)
4) Auburn, 5-1 (16)

Middle Division
Middle Division teams beat Upper Division teams 20% of the time and Lower Division teams 70% of the time. Usually lose a non-conference game, unless they have a 'Kansas State' caliber non-conference schedule. December bowl teams.
This season,
5) Florida, 5-2 (20)
6) Tennessee, 3-2 (19)
7) Vanderbilt, 4-3 (55)
8) South Carolina, 3-3 (57)

Lower Division
Lower Division teams beat Upper Division teams 5% of the time and Middle Division teams 30% of the time. They don't go to bowl games and have losing records.
This season,
9) Ole Miss, 2-4 (76)
10) Miss. State, 2-4 (82)
11) Arkansas, 2-4 (81)
12) Kentucky, 1-4 (100)

The numbers in parenthesis are the CBS Sportsline rankings for all 119 teams. Among each division, winning percentage is probably around 50/50. Now, Florida and Tennessee probably belong somewhere between Upper and Middle, but for the sake of 4-4-4 distribution we'll leave them where they are.

Being in the Middle Division is a HUGE accomplishment for Vandy -- all these people saying we needed to beat LSU or UGA to "prove we were for real" don't understand Vanderbilt's history and how meaningful just achieving mediocrity is.

This Saturday's game should be extremely competitive. Carolina's wins (Central Florida, Troy, and Kentucky) aren't very impressive -- their whole reputation is on what Spurrier did with superstars at Florida and their 'morale victory' in Week 2 at Georgia (losing 17-15).

Losing to MTSU in a fluke game (we played better than them the entire time, but just never capitalized) obscures that we are good enough to goto a December bowl game (meaning, we are one of the 50 or so best teams in the country). And, South Carolina probably isn't.

It would still be an upset because homefield means so much, but this is overwhelmingly winnable.


Ladies and gentlemen, keep an eye out for that Mark Halling -- you'll see him writing for someone, somwhere eventually.

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