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The SEC’s Best Football Programs Part 3: Campus Life

mrsec stat analysis newThis week, MrSEC.com is attempting to rank the SEC’s football programs from #1 all the way down to #14.  For an overview of the series, you can click right here.  You will find — among other things — that we have decided to rank each program in four main categories: Recruiting Base, Tradition, Campus Life and Recent History.

Under each of those four umbrella categories are 20 sub-categories.  Simply put, we’re grading SEC programs in 20 different areas.

Part 1 of our series — Recruiting Base — can be found here.

Part 2 of the series — Tradition — can be found here.

In this installment, we look into Campus Life.  And what exactly does “Campus Life” consist of?  Five categories that would all play some role in a recruit’s decision to attend a specific school.  Included are things such as fan passion, the makeup of the student body and even the weather.  That’s where we’ll start.

Below you will find the average number of sunny days in a year for each SEC campus.  The information comes from climate data provided by BestPlaces.net.  We will assume that the majority of athletes would prefer to live in a sunny environment.  The sunniest spots in the SEC are:

 

Campus Life: Average Number of Sunny Days

  ALA   ARK   AUB   UF   UGA   UK   LSU   MSU   MU   UM   USC   UT   A&M   VU
  214   217   217   224   216   188   214   220   192   217   217   204   209   205

 

No surprise, Gainesville, Florida is the best spot for a warm and sunny recruiting visit.  Starkville, Mississippi actually comes in next with 220 sun-filled days.

Coaches at Missouri and Kentucky — with fewer than 200 sunny days each — have to convince athletes that playing in chillier, gloomier weather isn’t such a bad thing.

 

Next, we look at the male to female ratio on each SEC campus.  Again, we will assume that the majority of football prospects visiting SEC schools are interested in girls.  All the better if the days are sunny and those girls dress accordingly.  There’s a reason schools assign hostesses to visiting recruits.  The table below shows the percentage of female students on each SEC campus:

 

Campus Life: Percentage of Female Students in Campus Population

  ALA   ARK   AUB   UF   UGA   UK   LSU   MSU   MU   UM   USC   UT   A&M   VU
  54   50   49   55   57   51   51   48   52   55   54   49   48   50

 

The edge in this battle goes to the University of Georgia.  According to the numbers provided by CollegeBoard.org, UGA’s student population is 57% female.

On the other end of the spectrum, visitors to Auburn, Tennessee, Mississippi State and Texas A&M are going to look around and see a whole lot of other guys.

 

Sticking with the demographic makeup of SEC student populations, we now look at the ethnicity of each school.  Once again we are left to assume that the majority of college football recruits would prefer to attend a school that enjoys racial diversity.  The table below shows the percentage of ethnic students on each SEC campus.  Again, the numbers were provided by CollegeBoard.org:

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Franklin Still At Vandy Because “We Believe In What We’re Doing”

VANDERBILT MEDIA DAYSJames Franklin was asked today why a man who’s had the success he’s had in his first two years hasn’t left for greener pastures.  In answering, he talked about his entire coaching staff:

 

“We have had some other opportunities… but we believe in what we’re doing.  We believe in the commitment that the kids have made.  You walk into that home and you talk to that kid and you talk to their parents about the opportunity you’re presenting their son at a place like Vanderbilt.  The fact that they have a chance to come and get a world class education and play in the greatest football conference in America.  We believe in the difference we’re making in kids’ lives.”

 

Franklin also credited the administration for backing his program in a way that the VU program has never been backed previously.

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Sure You Wanna Speed It Up? Faster Offenses Lead To Weaker Defenses In The SEC

mrsec stat analysis newThe quickest-spreading trend in college football today is the up-tempo, fast-as-lightning, can’t-catch-your-breath, hurry-up offense.  From Oregon on the West Coast all the way to College Station, Oxford and Auburn of the SEC, everyone seems to want to play at a breakneck offensive pace.

Looking back over the last four seasons, eight of the 16 fastest-playing offenses in the SEC were employed just last season.  Think on that for a second.  Four seasons of football equals 50 individual teams and offenses (12 in 2009, 12 in 2010, 12 in 2011 and 14 last season).  Of those 50, eight of the 16 fastest offenses were on SEC fields in 2012.

Ah, but there’s a drawback to all that hurrying.

To see exactly what impact those up-tempo offenses have had on their defensive counterparts, we’ve pored over a number of SEC statistics from 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.  We wanted to see if going all no-huddle and lickety-split on offense took a toll on a team’s defensive performance.  Many have made that case in recent years, including those of us here at MrSEC.com.

Some believe teams with hurry-up offenses aren’t as good on defense because they practice only against hurry-up, finesse opposition during the week.  When those defenses have to face a smashmouth offense from an opponent they’re simply not prepared.

Others believe that fast-paced offenses get on and off the field too quickly.  Whether they go three-and-out or march right down the field and score, their defensive mates aren’t given much time to catch their collective breath between series.

Those are two theories anyway.  But does the data really back up the idea that a team with an up-tempo offense won’t be as successful on defense?

It looks like it to us.

Below you’ll find a table with five different sets of numbers.  Beside each of the last 50 SEC teams’ you’ll find listed from left to right:

 

* The number of offensive snaps run by that team in SEC games

* The time of possession in seconds for that team in SEC games

* The total number of seconds per offensive snap in SEC games

* The yards-per-game allowed by that team’s defense in SEC games

* The points-per-game allowed by that team’s defense in SEC games

 

Again, the squads listed came from the 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 seasons.  Teams are listed in order from the fastest (lowest seconds-per-snap number) to the slowest (highest seconds-per-snap number) overall.

 

Team & Year Off. Snaps Seconds of Poss. Seconds/Snap Yds/Gm Allow. Pts/Gm Allow.
  A&M 2012   659   14147   21.46   392.9   21.0
  UT 2012   575   12739   22.15   490.1   40.0
  UM 2012   589   13736   23.32   390.9   29.9
  VU 2009   510   12297   24.11   386.3   23.9
  MU 2012   586   14212   24.25   408.3   33.0
  MSU 2011   526   12806   24.34   347.5   23.1
  AUB 2009   557   13640   24.48   370.3   27.4
  ARK 2012   569   13988   24.58   399.3   32.1
  UK 2012   492   12184   24.76   424.0   36.4
  UF 2010   558   14122   25.30   310.8   23.3
  ARK 2011   516   13055   25.30   364.0   24.6
  UK 2010   588   15189   25.83   400.6   33.4
  LSU 2012   569   14778   25.97   331.0   18.8
  ARK 2010   530   13786   26.01   377.9   28.1
  UM 2010   564   14717   26.09   436.0   37.6
  UGA 2012   608   15966   26.25   350.8   19.7
  VU 2010   487   12837   26.35   472.9   33.9
  VU 2012   557   14765   26.50   358.8   21.0
  UT 2011   492   13138   26.70   356.3   27.8
  UK 2009   534   14258   26.70   394.8   27.8
  UK 2011   513   13713   26.73   413.8   30.3
  ARK 2009   527   14098   26.75   419.5   19.1
  AUB 2010   626   16791   26.82   370.1   26.8
  AUB 2011   513   13784   26.86   394.0   30.8
  MSU 2010   546   14692   26.90   371.6   21.6
  UM 2009   540   14671   27.16   319.5   22.0
  UM 2011   515   13988   27.16   437.8   36.5
  USC 2009   545   14811   27.17   328.8   24.4
  LSU 2010   525   14310   27.25   324.8   20.6
  MSU 2012   534   14561   27.26   398.8   27.9
  UT 2009   530   14468   27.29   336.8   21.9
  USC 2011   551   15361   27.87   268.1   16.9
  USC 2012   523   14601   27.91   302.4   21.1
  UT 2010   484   13553   28.00   392.8   25.6
  LSU 2009   499   13991   28.03   328.9   18.8
  UF 2011   470   13253   28.19   338.1   23.9
  VU 2011   507   14413   28.42   345.3   23.4
  UGA 2011   675   19197   28.44   247.9   20.8
  USC 2010   586   16687   28.47   278.8   26.1
  MSU 2009   537   15338   28.56   364.8   29.4
  UGA 2009   488   14051   28.79   379.4   31.5
  UF 2009   571   16891   29.58   263.0   14.2
  ALA 2010   505   15070   29.84   328.4   17.9
  ALA 2012   586   17581   30.00   270.2   13.1
  UGA 2010   488   14646   30.01   355.8   25.0
  ALA 2009   594   17950   30.21   279.9   10.9
  ALA 2011   591   18120   30.65   170.7   7.4
  UF 2012   515   15927   30.92   281.9   11.9
  LSU 2011   606   19165   31.62   247.2   9.8
  AUB 2012   444   14207   31.99   449.4   34.0

 

Eyes bleeding?  Don’t worry, we’ll summarize some things for you.  And we think you’ll find the results as interesting as we did.

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UM, MSU: Masters Of Cupcakery… UGA, VU: SEC’s Toughest Schedulers

cupcakes1When it comes to pastries, no SEC school takes as many trips to the corner bakery as Ole Miss.  Over the past five years, the Rebels have played a whopping six schools from the FCS level.  Worse, their non-conference schedule has featured just two schools — two in five years — from BCS automatic-qualifier conferences (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big XII, and Pac-12).

No one in the SEC — not even Mississippi State — has feasted on as many cupcakes and creampuffs as the gang from Oxford.  And MSU has nibbled on its share of sponge cake.

On the other end of the spectrum are Vanderbilt and Georgia.  Some might say that the BCS-level foes they’ve scheduled haven’t always been atop their conferences, but at least they’re playing power-conference competition.  Both schools have scheduled 10 games against squads from BCS automatic-qualifiers over the last five seasons.

For comparison’s sake, we’ve gone back through the 2008 season to see which SEC schools have done the best and worst jobs of non-conference scheduling.  We’ve decided to include Missouri and Texas A&M even though they’ve spent just one year in the SEC.  But keep in mind the Big XII played nine league games in 2011.  So both A&M and Mizzou faced one less non-conference foe between ’08 and ’12 than their new SEC roomies.

In addition, please remember that those recent matchups between Texas A&M and Arkansas were non-conference games until last season.

One last note: We’re well aware of the schedule quirks, broken contracts, and state legislators’ desires that have forced your favorite school to line up games with tin cans on occasion.  And to paraphrase a Tommy Lee Jones’ line from “The Fugitive,” we don’t care.  Below is a simple look at how the SEC’s teams have handled non-conference scheduling in recent years.  It is what it is.

The categories used are “actual competition” (BCS conference foes), “cannon fodder” (teams from non-AQ FBS leagues or independents), and “cupcakes” (FCS-level opponents).

Enjoy…

 

Alabama

Actual Competition: 6 — Clemson, Duke, Michigan, Penn State (2), Virginia Tech

Cannon Fodder: 10 — Arkansas State, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Kent State, North Texas (2), San Jose State, Tulane, Western Kentucky (2)

Cupcakes: 4 — Georgia State, Georgia Southern, UT-Chattanooga, Western Carolina

Thoughts: Nick Saban has been pushing the SEC to add another conference game.  He’s also in favor power-conference teams playing only other power-conference teams.  But he’s not an idiot.  Until everyone gets on the same page, he won’t be trying to lead the way with Bama’s schedule.  Still, he’s been more than willing to open seasons against name competition.

2013 Schedule: Virginia Tech, Colorado State, Georgia State, UT-Chattanooga

 

Arkansas

Actual Competition: 5 — Rutgers, Texas, Texas A&M (3)

Cannon Fodder: 10 — Eastern Michigan, Louisiana-Monroe (3), New Mexico, Troy (2), Tulsa (2), UTEP

Cupcakes: 5 — Jacksonville State, Missouri State (2), Tennessee Tech, Western Illinois

Thoughts: Meh.  The Hogs haven’t exactly lined up the best of the best of the best over the last few years.  (Hey, another line from a Tommy Lee Jones’ flick.)  Texas and pre-SEC Texas A&M were good games, but Arkansas’ cannon fodder games were truly that.  Then you toss in five games against FCS cupcakes.  Was any Razorback fan happy to plunk down cash to see any of the last 10 schools on that list?  Happily Bret Bielema and AD Jeff Long are locking up future non-conference games against quality foes from the Hogs’ old Southwest Conference days.

2013 Schedule: Louisiana-Lafayette, Samford, Southern Miss, Rutgers

 

Auburn

Actual Competition: 5 — Clemson (3), West Virginia (2)

Cannon Fodder: 10 — Arkansas State, Ball State, Florida Atlantic, Louisiana-Monroe (3), Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, Southern Miss, Utah State

Cupcakes: 5 — Alabama A&M, Furman, Samford, UT-Chattanooga, UT-Martin

Thoughts: The same as above.  Auburn had five marquee non-conference games in the last five years.  Their remaining 15 non-conference contests were dreck.  This year’s non-con slate looks to provide more of the same.

2013 Schedule: Washington State, Arkansas State, Western Carolina, Florida Atlantic

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One Bad Apple Can Spoil The Whole Bunch: Vols, Dores, Twitter Edition

gfx - honest opinionIn this day and age, all it takes is one dimwit, loser, scumbag with no manners, no shame and no brain to make an entire fanbase look bad.  Twitter makes everything, oh, so easy.

Before diving into this one, let me make a few things clear:

First, I don’t understand people who use Twitter to curse left and right.  I was raised in such a way that I wouldn’t want the whole world to see me tossing F-bombs around left and right.

Second, I don’t get fans who feel that part of the “fun” of sports involves insulting other people.  Likewise, I’ve never understood why some fans are jerks to visiting fans.  I’ve never understood why fans attack rival fans in parking lots.  As a Patriots fans, I was once angered to see fellow New England fans tossing snow (and ice) balls at Jets fans during a snow game I attended in Foxboro.  I’m unable to comprehend how that attitude is created, where it comes from.  What, some people can’t watch a game without trying to hurt someone else — typically whom they don’t know — either with words or fists (or hurled objects)?  What does that say about those folks’ upbringing?

Third, I sure as hell don’t understand fans who take to social media to send nasty comments and messages to athletes or coaches.  If given the chance to spew such garbage in a face-to-face manner, the cowards on Twitter would more likely wet their pants than verbally abuse a coach or player.

And all that brings us to a recent Twitter exchange between a Tennessee fan and a Vanderbilt assistant football coach.  The Vol fan — someone named Julian Bucio — tweeted to Commodore O-line coach Herb Hand the following (edited) message:

 

“@CoachHand dude I think your wife is f****** someone while you coach your pathetic football team #Slut”

 

Now that’s class.  That’s someone I’d want to hire to work for my business.  That’s someone I’d want dating my sister, daughter or friend.

Wisely, Hand took the matter to the next level and guaranteed that the over-the-top tweet from a UT fan was seen by people far and wide.  Hand retweeted the message to Volunteers head coach Butch Jones.  Brilliant.  And he included this message:

 

“Here is what one of your fans sent me on Twitter today about Deb.  Just thought you’d like to know.  If any of our fans were to say something like this about Barb, please let me know so I can personally whip their ass.”

 

Boom.  Outta the park.

Why?

Hand has taken one rube’s tweet, turned it around, and made it a positive recruiting tool for Vanderbilt.  Now, will anyone be swayed to sign with VU over UT — or vice versa — because of a few tweets?  One would hope not (though coaches sure as heck try to use Twitter to recruit, don’t they).  But every program has an image.  Small things help to build up or tear down that image.  And for one day at least, UT’s image has been slightly tarnished by one of its own fans.

Who comes across with more class?  Hand or the fan?  Naturally, then, it looks like the Vol fanbase is made up of juvenile punks while VU’s coaching staff features men willing to try and hush such nonsense in his own ranks.  We live in a world where everything is oversimplified — e.g.: Twitter = 140 characters — so if Harvey Updyke poisons a tree, Alabama fans are all viewed as being nuts.  If a Tennessee fan says nasty things about a coach’s wife, all Tennessee fans will be viewed as classless.

Jones hasn’t yet responded to Hand’s tweet, but Bucio responded by mocking the coach for responding to him.  (Personally, this is a favorite cowardly out of mine.  Someone writes something insulting to me, I insult them back, and then I’m called thin-skinned for not taking a goofball’s insult like I should.  So the obnoxious person holds the upper hand while the public figure has his hands tied?  I think not.)

Bucio also claimed via Twitter that Vandy fans have tweeted him “physical threats,” as if anyone cares.  Dumb fans tweet dumb things to other dumb fans all the time.  A few dumb fans also tweet ugly, dumb things to coaches and players.  But rarely is a coach wise enough — or calm enough — to simply expose the initial tweeter as a no-class buffoon as Hand did by re-tweeting Bucio’s message straight to Tennessee’s head coach.

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Franklin Says He’s Building Vandy, Not Tearing Down UT

james-franklin-vandy-coachingJames Franklin might be the most popular man in Nashville… and the least popular man in the state of Tennessee.  Vanderbilt fans love the man who’s taken the school’s football program to back-to-back bowls and locked up a nine-win season.  They also love him because he had the Commodores go toe-to-toe with the rival Vols — losing in overtime — in Knoxville two years ago… and because his team mopped the field with Tennessee 41-18 last year on the West End.

Tennessee’s fanbase hates Franklin for pretty much those exact same reasons.  Well, that and Franklin also has no problem stepping on the occasional toe.  From the Todd Grantham dust-up during his first season to the “Nicky Satan” episode earlier this offseason, Franklin hasn’t been afraid to do what he feels needs doing or to say what he thinks needs saying.  Love him or hate him, you can’t question his fire.  Fire that most believe burns hottest when it comes to the Vandy’s chief rival.

But in a short Q&A with The Tennessean, Vandy’s coach quickly shot down the idea that he had a “disdain for all things orange.”

 

“That’s not really accurate.  I’m trying to build our pride in the black and gold, and in the Star V, and in Vanderbilt. I have tremendous respect for the University of Tennessee, their history, their traditions, the state as a whole.

I’m trying to fight for the respect of our program. So it’s really not about anybody else’s colors. It’s about me demanding respect for Vanderbilt, the Commodores, the black and gold, the Star V and for our football program. That’s it.

I’m trying to get everyone in our stadium to wear black and gold. I’m trying to get everybody in Nashville to wear black and gold. I’m trying to get all of our alumni and fans all across the entire country to be proud to walk around wearing their black and gold and wearing the Star V and throwing the VU (sign) up to each other.

It’s a sense of brotherhood. It’s a sense of pride. I hear it all the time. I hear people tell me all the time that I see more Vanderbilt gear in stores. I see more Vanderbilt gear walking around in the community.”

 

The more Franklin has won, the more pride Vanderbilt fans have taken in their program.  Granted, Tennessee was at a low point when the Volunteers traveled to Nashville last season, but the stadium still featured more black and gold and less orange than anyone had seen in decades.

Moving forward, Franklin knows that the Commodore fanbase will have to continue to prove itself if VU is to land in better bowl games:

 

“… There’s no doubt that bowl games and cities at locations that want to sell tickets to their game, sell the place out, and bring people in that are going to bring revenue into their town, so teams that travel well (are considered).

That’s why I’m constantly talking to people about how we’ve made great strides, but the next step is we have to show everyone through our support and our fan base and our alumni and our students that we love our program and that we support our program.  That’s why we’re going to sell out every single game next year.  I think that’s going to be a good statement to the country of what’s going on here, and also to the bowl people about what’s going on.”

 

Franklin is only stating the obvious.  And hey, if we wrote it on Tuesday it had to be obvious, right?

The 41-year-old coach has Vanderbilt on the uptick.  From on-field results to recruiting wars to comments that sometime rub opposing fans the wrong way, Franklin is the first Vanderbilt football coach in years to elicit real emotion from the Dores’ rivals.  And that wouldn’t be the case if he weren’t doing something right.

You swat an annoying gnat.  You moan, scream, and complain about a bee that stings.

Franklin has given VU a stinger.

 

UPDATE – Speaking of stingers… Franklin was taken to task on Nashville radio yesterday for suggesting in a tweet last month that players who don’t sign with Vanderbilt “want 2 settle in life.”

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Music City Bowl Numbers Could Adversely Impact Vandy’s Future Bowl Chances

gfx - honest opinionMusic City Bowl officials announced today that last December’s game between Vanderbilt and NC State had a $13.9 million positive impact on the city of Nashville.  The problem, however, is the fact that that’s the third smallest economic boom since the bowl began matching SEC and ACC teams back in 2006.

Why might the money have been down?  Uh, Vanderbilt is located in Nashville, of course.  Bowls were initially started as a means of bringing tourists into touristy destinations in non-touristy times of year.  To an extent, that’s still the goal for bowl and city officials.  And when it comes to tourism, grabbing a local team never makes sense.  Indeed, fewer than 30,000 out-of-towners traveled to Nashville to watch the Commodores and Wolfpack butt helmets.

Last year’s game ranked #3 on the list of least-profitable bowls for the city since ’06 and we bet you can guess which one finished dead last.  Yep, the 2008 Music City Bowl which also featured Vanderbilt.  That game brought in just $9.9 million for the city and just 17,000 visitors as the Dores were matched up with faraway Boston College.

Some bowls hold their nose on the travel numbers in exchange for creating a good television matchup.  What’s more valuable — bringing thousands of fans into Nashville for one game or promoting Nashville as a tourist destination in front of millions of television viewers?  But the television numbers for last year’s Music City Bowl were also lackluster.  Its 1.62 national household rating was the game’s lowest in seven years.

The problem for Vanderbilt is one of reputation.  James Franklin and the VU administration are having to build a program out of the ashes of dozens of failed football seasons.  Until Vandy gets a better name, it likely won’t become a major television draw (the school also lacks the massive alumni base of many of the nation’s larger state schools).  Bowl committees know what kind of television draw Vanderbilt is.  They know, too, about the smaller alumni base.  Those issues are largely to blame for the Commodores being trapped inside the Volunteer State — Music City Bowl twice, Liberty Bowl once — during their recent uptick in success.

To continue to move forward and grow Vanderbilt into an honest-to-God football program, VU officials need to loudly trumpet the fact that the school sold out its allotment of tickets for the 2011 Liberty Bowl.  Otherwise future bowl committees looking at sub-standard TV ratings and generic stories regarding low economic impact — even though its unfair to blame Vandy for not bringing fans into its own city — might decide to pass on inviting the black and gold to their party.

Northwestern has traveled the same road.  Ditto Stanford.

Franklin and Vanderbilt have made tremendous strides in the past two years alone.  But there are further issues to overcome before the school can start to land invitations to top-notch, out-of-state bowl games.  And until that happens, Vandy’s success story will remain more of a regional story than a national one.

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Vandy’s Franklin: “They Told Me I Could Never Win There”

gfx - they said itSpeaking at the Redemption World Outreach Center in Greenville, South Carolina earlier this week, Vanderbilt football coach James Franklin opened up about the warnings he said he received before accepting the Commodores head coaching job… and his method for turning things around in Nashville:

 

“They told me I could never win there; it was the toughest job in all of college football.  Over and over and over again, we heard that constantly…

I’m a guy that’s got a chip on my shoulder, so I like proving people wrong.  That’s part of our message about how we were able to turn the thing around, by trying to take that negativity and flip it, by bombarding our guys with the same consistent positive message over and over and over again.”

 

Franklin is 15-11 in two years at Vandy.  He’s led the Commodores to their first back-to-back winning seasons since 1974 and 1975.  He’s led VU to consecutive bowl games for the first time in school history.  His nine-win campaign this past season was Vanderbilt’s first nine-win season since 1915.

According to Rivals.com, Franklin also notched the 29th-best signing class in America in 2012 followed by the 19th-best class this year.

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Top MrSEC Clicks For The Week

 

 

SEC Bowl Observations: VU, LSU, MSU, USC, And UGA

observation-pointJust a few thoughts that ran through this writer’s head while watching the SEC’s first five bowl games this week:

 

*  Vanderbilt won its ninth game of the season on Monday.  As you know by now, the Commodores’ win in the Music City Bowl secured the program its best season since way back in 1915.  But the win over NC State did something else, too — it produced James Franklin’s first win over a solid FBS opponent.

Going into Monday’s game, Vandy under Franklin had gone 0-10 against FBS teams with winning records, 11-1 against FBS teams with losing records, and 2-0 against FCS foes.  (If 6-6 Ole Miss wins its bowl game against Pittsburgh, VU will have won two contests against FBS teams with winning records.)

Now, heading into Monday’s game, North Carolina State was a 7-5 team that had just gotten its coach fired.  So this was not akin to Vandy knocking off Alabama or Florida.  But just as Dan Mullen had to finally beat a West Division team not named Ole Miss to keep people from repeatedly bringing that criticism up, Franklin has now silenced one of the barbs lobbed at him by rival fans.

 

*  Not only did Vanderbilt finish 9-4 this season, but the Dores won seven games in a row to end the year.  That’s currently the longest winning streak in the SEC.  Just let that one roll around in your head for a bit.

Matter of fact, after an 0-2 start to the season, Vandy finished 9-2 the rest of the way.  The Commodores also scored 38 or more points in five of their last six games.

Regardless of schedule strength, those are some solid accomplishments.  Fantastic accomplishments for a traditional cellar-dweller like Vanderbilt.

 

*  With every step forward, there’s always a new challenge.  After a 6-7 first year, many wondered if Franklin could build on his surprising start.  He did.  Now he’ll have to start winning with the guys he’s been recruiting.

Bobby Johnson — as we’ve noted several times before — deserves credit for leaving Franklin a roster stacked with redshirt juniors and seniors.  Now those players have had their run and the recruits Franklin and his staff have brought in will have to take their place.  Franklin has been able to get more out of Johnson’s leftovers than expected, so he should do well with some of the higher-profile recruits he’s wooed to Nashville.  But his team will be a bit younger moving forward.  Winning with a less experienced roster will be his next challenge.

 

*  Say, did you see our prediction for the Chick-fil-A Bowl?  We had Clemson edging past LSU 24-23.  Turns out they edged past them 25-24.  Currently we’re 5-0 picking SEC bowl games and 3-2 against the spread.  Hey, we’ll take 60% against the spread.  The rest of our SEC bowl picks (minus the BCS title game) can be found right here.  

And in case you’re wondering, we’ve got Florida to cover even though we think tonight’s Sugar Bowl will look a lot like last night’s Orange Bowl… with the deeper team pulling away late.

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