After a couple weeks of silly bowl games and lamenting the defunctedness of the Baccardi Bowl, it’s come time to get into college football’s more serious postseason games. With the BCS bowls getting going on January 2 (there are no New Year’s Day bowls this year), New Year’s Eve provides a suitable appetizer, including Cincinnati and Vanderbilt in the Liberty Bowl, 2:30 pm Central time on ABC. Watch for me on the TV.
Rather than try to duplicate the good work already done by dedicated Vanderbilt bloggers and create my own full game preview, I’ll yield to more experienced voices below, after offering my own thoughts, in bullet-point format (it’s Memphis, after all):
While Vanderbilt was three plays away from a 9-3 record in the regular season, they finished 6-6, which still triples their win total from last year with essentially the same roster and bests their win total from the past two seasons combined. That said, a win on Saturday would give the Commodores a winning record on the season; a loss, of course, would give them a losing record. Coach James Franklin has hit this point in his preparation this week and I think it’s an important one. A season this good, comparatively speaking, cannot end with a losing record.
This is just the fifth bowl appearance for Vanderbilt, but this year’s senior class is the school’s first to play in two bowl games. At a school where nobody leaves early for the NFL (not even Jay Cutler), the seniors represent a strong, experienced group of leaders. They also have played for three different coaches (Bobby Johnson, Robbie Caldwell, and Franklin) in three years, so they have been through a lot together. After a win in the Music City Bowl three years ago, followed by two down years, the seniors seem to play for themselves as much as they do for Franklin and the future of the program. I think this bodes well for their performance in their final game.
As much as 2008’s Music City Bowl was a coming out party for quarterback Larry Smith, the 2011 season has been a coming out party for his replacement, Jordan Rodgers. The junior starter with a famous brother has been an offensive force this year, both as a rusher and a passer. Rodgers need not have a perfect total game for Vandy to win– other offensive options and tools are available– but he needs to avoid making the kinds of mistakes he did in the overtime loss to Tennessee.
Cincinnati is a relative unknown to me, and probably to you, something the information below should remedy. The two things that come to my mind are 1) they aren’t that far removed from Brian Kelly, so there probably is a talent residue there; and 2) their basketball team is made up of some hard brawlers, which may or may not carry over onto the football field. I just looked up their regular season record: 9-3. But they play in the Big East.
I’ve been to one other bowl game, the 2007 Rose Bowl. USC embarrassed Michigan that afternoon, and I was embarrassed to be associated with the state in which the losing team was located. I very much am hoping for a different result on Saturday.
History: Sensibly, the Liberty Bowl started in Philadelphia in 1959, but by 1965, it had moved to Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis to host larger crowds and establish itself as one of the oldest non-BCS bowls. The People’s history of the Liberty Bowl is here.
Breakdown of Cincinnati football: Anchor of Gold demands answers to seven pressing questions here.
Breakdown of Vanderbilt football: Bearcats Nation presents answers to six pressing questions here.
Bowl Week Rundown: Seamus O’Toole over at Vanderbilt Sports Line offers the following:
As Vanderbilt and Cincinnati arrived in the Birthplace of Rock ‘n Roll yesterday, much of the news coverage focused on the full-circle story of Chris Marve, who will be playing his final game in a Commodore uniform in his hometown. It’s hard to think of higher words of praise than what DC Bob Shoop had to say of his star middle linebacker: “Somebody asked me why we had success on defense,” he said. “It’s Chris Marve. He gave me credibility right off the bat.”
The word out of Cincy is that the Bearcats are “wary” of Jordan Rodgers’ bloodlines and the fact that he is personally accounting for nearly 260 yards per game as a starter.
The Commercial Appeal has a great article about [Franklin] having the “right formula” for success at Vanderbilt, mostly because of how he has endeared himself to his players. The article also notes a number of areas in which the Commodores have improved from last year to this year:
Record: 6-6, 2-10: +4
Scoring offense: 26.9, 16.9: +10.0
Total offense: 342.8, 298.2: +44.6
Rushing TDs: 24, 13: +11
Total defense: 324.6, 419.2: +94.6
Scoring defense: 20.8, 31.2: +10.4
Rushing defense: 123.0, 193.0: +70
Rushing TDs allowed: 10, 25: + 15
Red zone TDs scored: 23, 14: +9
Red zone TDs allowed: 16, 29: +13
As for bowl week activities, you can follow the team’s every move by checking Brandon Barca’s regular blog updates at VUCommodores.com.
Read the rest here.
For you degenerates: Over at Bodog.com’s online sportsbook, Vanderbilt has been a 1.5 point favorite all week. Read more here.
My final thought is that I am confident in Vanderbilt’s ability to win this game on Saturday. While that confidence largely is based upon a near-complete ignorance of Vanderbilt’s opponent in Saturday’s game, I think I know the Black and Gold pretty well, having attended two games this season. Moreover, I have a datapoint to support my prediction: ‘Dore OL Mylon Brown’s (pictured at the top) utter destruction of an unnamed Bearcat in a rib-eating contest earlier this week. To the victor go the spoils, which in this case apparently is a full plate of ribs.