College football is here at last. Like last year, the season begins on a Thursday night that features Vanderbilt in action against another SEC foe. In 2012, Vandy lost a heartbreaker to South Carolina on a blown call by the officials on opening night. This year, the Commodores take on inter-division rival Ole Miss. Vanderbilt has won three straight against the Rebs, but the margin of victory was just one point in their last meeting, and Ole Miss is on the rise thanks to their best recruiting class ever. While everything’s turning up roses in Oxford this season (“roses” being defined as something close to “Robert Nkemdiche“), a dark cloud has been hovering over Nashville as a result of rape allegations against four recently dismissed players. On the field, Vanderbilt’s biggest question might be at quarterback, where the journeymannish boy Austyn Carta-Samuels is set to take the reins from the graduated Jordan Rodgers and attempt to help the team improve on last year’s nine-win season, VU’s best mark since 1915.
Unlike last year, Vanderbilt technically does not play the first game of the season, as North Carolina and South Carolina will scoop Ole Miss-Vandy with an earlier kickoff time. Some analysts, including one of our own, have indicated that the Gamecocks should be on upset alert. I don’t think I agree, but the battle for Carolinian superiority should be a fun appetizer to get things rolling tonight.
The big game of the weekend, and the site of ESPN College Gameday, also is in South Carolina, where the #8 Clemson Tigers will host the #5 Georgia Bulldawgs in a premiere matchup. Both teams have legitimate national title aspirations, and winning this game would be a huge boon. Because it’s in week one, and because it isn’t a conference game, however, a loss here won’t cripple either team’s chances. It should be a great time, though, and our own Magalan, Commodawg, and AD will be on the ground to document it or not.
Two other college football notes as we start the season, both sourced out of the state of Alabama. One is this GQ profile on Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban, which includes such items as the fact that Saban eats two oatmeal cream pies for breakfast, chews Red Man Golden Blend, and thought the national championship game did nothing more than cost him a week of recruiting. The other is this AL.com article on how defenses are responding to the surge in up-tempo offensive schemes, which includes the following:
“No one is talking about this, but look for more fake injuries by the defense,” ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit said. “I’ve talked to defensive coaches. These guys are actually practicing faking injuries in practice.”
“There’s nothing in the rule book at this point that states defenses can’t fake injuries,” Herbstreit said. “I promise you, in some big game after some crucial second down that sets up a third down, they’re going down. It’s going to be embarrassing. It’s going to be so fake. Nothing prevents it other than being unethical.”
The NCAA football rules book simply relies on the integrity of coaches. Officials are instructed that when they see an injured player, the official must assume the injury is real and should not guess if it’s genuine. The player must leave the game for at least one play, although the offense’s tempo will have been stopped.
The football rules book reads: “Feigning an injury for any reason is unethical. An injured player must be given full protection under the rules, but feigning injury is dishonest, unsportsmanlike, and contrary to the spirit of the rules. Such tactics cannot be tolerated among sportsmen of integrity.”
That should be a fun addition to the viewing experience.
As for what you can expect from ALDLAND tonight and this weekend, we will be live-tweeting Ole Miss-Vandy @ALDLANDia, and we will be on the ground in Clemson, SC all day Saturday when UGA comes to town. In the meantime, be sure to check out the best full-season college football preview anywhere on the latest episode of the ALDLAND Podcast with Brendan, Marcus, and guest Baddeus Thaddeus.