Don't look now, but Vanderbilt's gone and done it -- they've started their season 4-0 (2-0 in SEC play including a win over a ranked South Carolina squad) and are now ranked 21st in the latest AP Poll. They also lead the SEC East thanks to byes and non-conference games from Florida and Georgia. We bloggers of FanHouse didn't give Vandy a chance in our preseason SEC rankings, unanimously voting Vandy sixth in the SEC East and last overall, just ahead of Mississippi State. Boy, were we ever wrong!
Vanderbilt's recent win over Ole Miss wasn't the prettiest offensive performance ever, but thanks to three interceptions from the "Baddest Man on Campus" aka Ryan Hamilton, the Commodores chalked up a 23-17 victory.
The burning question: is Vanderbilt really good, or are South Carolina and Ole Miss really bad?
The truth lies somewhere in between. South Carolina proved its defense is legit against top-ranked Georgia two Saturdays ago, losing 14-7 with numerous chances to win the game in the second half. And Ole Miss took Wake Forest, which some pundits say is the best team in the ACC, down to the wire; the Rebels were up with 1:00 to go before a last second field goal destroyed their upset hopes.
Ole Miss and South Carolina display elements of being somewhat solid teams, even if all the pieces aren't there yet. Based on the way they've played their competition -- despite the fact they lost -- indicates that these wins do contain considerable merit for Vanderbilt.
That being said, Vanderbilt's not going to survive contests against teams like Georgia and Florida with 202 total yards (from the Ole Miss game). Ole Miss actually outgained Vanderbilt almost 2:1 in total yardage, but turnovers trump passing and rushing stats any day. So in that respect, Vanderbilt has to be evaluated with a modicum of common sense. Despite their fast start, the 'Dores are not SEC contenders -- but that elusive bowl game, which has been a seemingly impossible goal for Vandy in the last quarter-century -- is only two wins away.