Athens, GA (Oct 16, 2008) - One of the advantages of driving the kids to school in the morning is being able to catch a little bit of local sportstalk radio on 960 The Ref. The kids tolerate it because they get to hear parts of Conan O'Brians monologue from the night before. On this morning's show, David Johnston and fill-in host Jeff Dantzler had a call with Raycom's SEC play-by-play man Dave Neal. The first question was one that you had to be an SEC junkie to truly appreciate:
DJ: Dave, did you ever think you would see the day when it would be this late in the season before you would be covering a Vanderbilt game?
DN: No I didn't, and I don't mean it facetiously. In my ten years doing the SEC games, this is the latest I have seen them in the season. And I do miss them.
In all seriousness, this exchange allowed the three of them to talk a lot about how the landscape in college football is changing and that the smaller, "more academic schools" like Vandy, Northwestern, Wake Forest and others are no longer the patsies in college football. Neal made the observation that David Cutcliffe's success at Duke is not helping Philip Fulmer's case at Tennessee.
Notwithstanding all the gushing about Vanderbilt being "so good" and in the Top 25, Vanderbilt still has a lot to prove. The only critical analysis of Vanderbilt that I have seen or read comes from CBS College Sports Network Analyst David Pollack:
"Here is the secret, play bad defense, play bad offense and get a bunch of turnovers. Basically, that is what Vandy does. Last in the SEC in offense, last in the SEC in defense and they are living on the turnovers. If they do not get turnovers, they are not going to stay in all these ball games. They are undefeated because they're number one in the nation in turnovers, and they are continuing to do that. If they keep doing that they will stay in games. Otherwise, they will run into trouble."
And so it was in Vandy's loss last Saturday. But there is also an intangible factor, agreed to by all three gentlemen on the call, that sometimes favors the visiting team playing in a 12:30 game: they are much more motivated than the home team and the home fans. They have seen it happen time and time again in the SEC. But Dave reminded the other two that the Big Ten teams do this often, many times having to kick-off at 11:00 AM.
What seems to be lost by people, especially Dantzler, is that 12:30 kick-offs are a fact of life in college football and that teams need to be "up" for their games no matter what time the kick-off occurs. The SEC is lucky in that they get a lot of TV exposure, so many of their games will start later. Looking at this week's schedule, the Vandy-Georgia game has the earliest kick-off this week:
Ole Miss at Alabama (2:30 p.m. CT / CBS)
Arkansas at Kentucky (7 p.m. ET / ESPNU)
Vanderbilt at Georgia (12:30 p.m. ET / Raycom)
LSU at South Carolina (8 p.m. ET / ESPN)
Mississippi State at Tennessee (7 p.m. ET / PPV)
If a team has conference and/or national championship aspirations, they need to "get up" for their games, no matter when or where they are played. That is what makes them champions. And while Vandy is currently a Top 25 team, Georgia had better take advantage of the 14-point spread and beat them soundly. If not, it will make their next two games against LSU and Florida all that much tougher.
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