By Hunter Ford
After such a long anxious summer itâ€™s hard to believe the football season is now a third of the way finished for most teams.
Alabama has been extremely impressive out of the gate, going 4-0 with impressive beat downs of Clemson and Arkansas sandwiching wins against Tulane and Western Kentucky.
Alabama has been able to play back-ups, including quarterback Greg McElroy. And the Tide is succeeding by playing more than a dozen true freshman including its leading receiver Julio (Down by the Schoolyard) Jones and running back Mark Ingram.
Ingram had much less hype than Jones and has been a pleasant surprise for Tide fans. Combined with running back Glen Coffee, Ingram gives Alabama some real â€œThunder and Lightning.â€
Auburn was kicked in the gut once again by LSU in a game that ended almost like an instant replay of last yearâ€™s game in Baton Rouge.
Falling to 3-1 overall and 1-1 in SEC play doesnâ€™t ruin Auburnâ€™s hopes for an SEC West title but it puts a serious damper on them.
LSU has the early advantage now. The Bayou Tigers will have to play Florida, Alabama and Georgia before the season is over. The chances of emerging unscathed are pretty slim. Alabama, on the other hand, must play LSU, Georgia, and Auburn. The Tideâ€™s chances of emerging unscathed are equally low.
Donâ€™t be surprised if Ole Miss, a loser to Vanderbilt last weekend, turns out to be a spoiler for someoneâ€™s season this year.
I would say the winner of the LSU-Alabama game will also play in Atlanta this season for the conference crown.
Speaking of Vanderbilt, how can you not root for the 4-0 Commodores?
Vanderbilt has always been my second favorite team in the SEC and I would venture to say that the Dores are a sentimental favorite for many other SEC fans.
One reason is that Vanderbilt has historically been so harmless to other teamsâ€™ fan bases. Yet they play scrappy enough to make us respect them.
If you are an Alabama or Auburn fan you have a couple of primary rivals, namely Tennessee and Georgia, respectively and then each other (Tide or Tiger). You probably resent other rivals like LSU or Florida for their success and canâ€™t pull for them. But Vandy?
You have pleasant memories of visiting the cozy environment of Commodore Stadium, having half of it to yourself, and being treated ever so politely by the upper crust white bread folks who inhabit it.
Vanderbilt is the one SEC campus where the tailgaters are more likely to be nibbling cheese and sipping wine while talking about their stock portfolios, as opposed to munching Golden Flake and guzzling beer, talking about their stud linebacker or defensive tackle.
The Vandy fans donâ€™t get too bothered by losses, and they will smile at you as you exit whether or not you have beaten them 55-0 or come from behind in the fourth quarter.
Itâ€™s probably because a high percentage of the alums are doctors, politicians and executives, and the students (including players) will soon hold the same status.
Vanderbilt last visited a bowl in 1982, playing in the Hall of Fame Bowl in Birmingham and losing to Air Force. They finished 8-4 that year.
The Dores flirted with success in 1984, starting 4-0 and beating Alabama on its homecoming day before ending 5-6.
This yearâ€™s Vandy team has already beaten South Carolina, Rice and Ole Miss, three teams I expected them to lose to.
Vanderbilt will have an open date before its next game, Oct. 4 at Auburn.
I suspect Auburn will bring Vandy back to football reality. Then the Dores will have to find at least two more victories to become bowl eligible. The rest of the schedule includes Georgia, Florida, Mississippi State, Duke, Tennessee and Wake Forest.
Mississippi State and Tennessee are floundering. Georgia and Florida should beat Vandy. Duke is another perennial loser that looks better on paper this year (at 2-1) but hasnâ€™t played anyone. Wake Forest is another team that used to be everybodyâ€™s favorite homecoming punk but has risen steadily from the ashes over the past few seasons.
I suspect Vanderbilt can find two or three more wins, most likely against Mississippi State and Duke and perhaps an upset of Tennessee or Wake Forest thrown in. At 6-6 or 7-5 Vanderbilt could go bowling either in the Papa Johnâ€™s or Independence Bowlsâ€¦maybe even at home in Nashville for the Music City Bowl. One sure bet. If the Dores collapse it wonâ€™t cost their fan base too much sleep. Vanderbilt cheers even when it loses.
â€œThatâ€™s alright, thatâ€™s okay, weâ€™re going to sign your check one day!â€