by J.R. Lind
This Week In The 'Drome: Historic wins, next steps, Dromeversary and more
Ceilings Vs. Feelings : What more can James Franklin do?
In two seasons on West End, the Vanderbilt Commodores coach has already exploded expectations. Two straight bowl appearances, a winning SEC record, a devastating display against arch-rival Tennessee.
This is no average Vanderbilt tenure, but had Franklin accomplished in 10 years what he's already accomplished in two, they'd be renaming Dudley Field as Franklin Field if only the latter weren't already taken.
So what does he do for an encore? We asked this last year, too, thinking he'd perhaps just caught lightning in a bottle with the 'Dores' run to the Liberty Bowl. But the second act was even better than the first. Vandy has a chance at nine wins for the first time since 1915. They've won five conference games for the first time since 1935, when two of those wins were against Georgia Tech and Sewanee. He has more wins in two years (13) than any coach not named Dan McGugin and that guy invented the onside kick.
Franklin intimates that he's at Vandy for the long haul, that he wants to make the 'Dores conference contenders the way Stanford is in the Pac-Whatever. But is that realistic? To do it, he'll have to compete with Florida, Georgia, Alabama, LSU and, presumably, one day again, Tennessee.
Isn't what he's done enough? Hasn't he set the table for a successor to have continued success? "Same Old Vandy" rarely crossed the lips of football watchers this year and seven, eight, nine wins a year will make it a memory. No one is making much of this, but Franklin has to be a name considered for any number of coaching vacancies. Gerry DiNardo went 5-6 in consecutive years and the way schools lusted after him, you'd think he invented the touchdown.
Someone will wave a check at Franklin but he must decide if Vandy is a stepping stone for him — as it was for DiNardo and for Steve Sloan before him — or if he's more in the mold of Kansas State's Bill Snyder or Chris Peterson at Boise State. They took moribund programs and turned them into forces and neither has ever felt the need to vault up the ladder. But plenty of others have. And with Maryland now in the Big Televenty, could a vacancy at one of the Great Lakes Land Grants entice Franklin to show up the school which originally eschewed him?
For now, we keep asking what Franklin will do next, but eventually we may wonder where he'll go next.
The Week Behind
Boatraced : If Miami of Ohio is the Cradle of Coaches, Vanderbilt may be the coaches' ICU.
The thrashing the Commodores put on Tennessee may not have cost Derek Dooley his job — the hand was writing on the wall long before Saturday — but it certainly bore out a trend. Losses to the Commodores have portended the end for Houston Nutt at Ole Miss, Joker Phillips at Kentucky, Dooley and likely Auburn's Gene Chizik.
At some point, if Vandy's success continues, losing to the 'Dores won't be such a tragedy, especially if the wallopings continue. Tennessee is down, obviously, but losing by 23 to Vanderbilt? On the rare occasions the 'Dores have won this game in the past, they've relied on the perfect bounce, the late game heroics. This win against Tennessee was almost, dare we say?, boring in its comprehensiveness.
Bru Pub : Like many easterners on their way to Alaska, Belmont's men's hoops team stopped over in California along the way. Call it the Gold Rush Tour. The Stanford Cardinal held the nation's longest winning streak — OK, it was only eight games, but still — and likely knew the book on Rick Byrd's squad: don't let them kill you with the three.
And they didn't. They held Belmont to a pedestrian 26 percent from three-point range and a paltry 36 percent from the field.
Didn't matter, though. The Bruins played stiff defense and walked out of the Maples Pavilion 70-62 winners over the Cardinal. It was the first Bruin win against a BCS school since beating Cincinnati and Alabama in 2007.
Garbage Time : Vandy's trip west did not nearly as well as their fellow westsiders. The 'Dores were embarrassed by Oregon 74-48. Gonna be a long year. ... TSU's glittering start sputtered, the Tigers lost all hope for a playoff berth with a 35-26 loss at UT-Martin. MTSU got to seven wins — and this was a team that lost to McNeese State — and has a chance at a Sun Belt title.
Anyway, Mike is out of work at the moment, so he has plenty of time to hang out with the wife and go to award shows and what not.
And sometimes when your music-singing wife wins awards, you've got a duty. You've got to hold the purse.
Watch What You're Doing: Courtesy SBNation, an official in the UT-Vandy game can't seem to get a hold of the penalty flag, so he improvises. Time flies.
The Week Ahead
Domesticated. Not Declawed : The bad news for the Titans is that the Jaguars are going to start their No. 2 choice at quarterback, Chad Henne, who actually bears some resemblance to an NFL quarterback, unlike actual Jags quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
The Titans are coming off a bye week which fell, rather unfortunately, after a big win at Miami, a game in which everything clicked all of a sudden and also they had the advantage of playing the Dolphins. Coach Mike Munchak gave the players the week off (OK, actually, the collective-bargaining agreement did) so they had time off from their usual activity of collectively deciding if they are going to be a good team or a bad one.
The Jags — with Henne — came thisclose to beating the Texans last week and the Texans may be the only team in the AFC that isn't a pile of stinky garbage. Of course, the Texans were forced to use their back-up quarterback and, unlike the Jags back-up quarterback, Houston's back-up quarterback is actually worse than their starting quarterback.
Worthless Prediction : Titans 27, Jags 17. Just keep an eye on Mercedes Lewis.
They've Got A Name For The Winners In The World : Vanderbilt heads into the last week of the season in a strange place: already bowl-eligible, already done with SEC play and betting the come/no-come line with house money.
Indeed, the 'Dores can play spoiler to Wake Forest, who needs a win at home against rival (?) Vanderbilt to get bowl eligible themselves.
Worthless Prediction : With the possible exception of the Georgia game, in which Vandy was clearly outmatched, the 'Dores haven't looked unprepared all season. Vandy 34, Wake 10.
DROMEVERSARY! : A year ago, I asked the Scene's powers-that-be if I could contribute a weekly sports digest to Pith. I had a whole convincing argument ready to go — charts, graphs, what not — but I didn't need it, as they enthusiastically agreed.
I settled on a name — the story of which you can find here at the top of that first edition — and off I went, in the first week discussing Vandy's loss at UT, Craig Smith's hilarious effort at an empty netter (remember hockey?) and Jake Locker's first NFL touchdown.
In the ensuing 52 weeks, you've suffered through my photographic puns, casual use of Latin and cricket jokes which caught you on the back foot, looking as confused as Andrew Strauss facing Shane Warne. I've so screwed the Google Image Search for "the hippodrome nashville" that pictures of George Plaster, Edward Furlong and John L. Lewis pop up along side images like the one at right.
And for that, I thank you all and especially my wife and daughter, who've heard "Oh crap, I've got to blog this" on more than a few late nights.
All your emails and your tweets make those late Thursday nights when, inevitably, the Predators would pull victory from the jaws of defeat, all worth it.
I'm just trying to do something different. I'm glad you dig it.
Rants, raves, tips and tricks? Send 'em to jrlind[at]nashvillescene[dot]com and be sure to listen from 6-7 PM Tuesdays when I join Willy Daunic and Darren McFarland on 102.5 The Game (something else that's changed in the past year). We'll talk about how you can best me in a crossword tournament (for a good cause).