Maybe I’ve had Stewart Mandel wrong all these years. All that stuff like talking to 100 people in Montana and fawning over minor starlets was just an indication of laziness, I thought. But that’s not it.
I think the guy’s bored with college football. He’s looking for something to give him a thrill. How else to explain the !ZOMG! College football has been changed forevah! stuff he cranked out after Boise State beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, which in retrospect seems as over the top as… well, it was when he wrote it.
And then there’s this: one of the five things Mandel learned this past weekend is that Vanderbilt could win the SEC East. Why? Believe it or not, because of the remaining schedule. I kid you not.
… But have you seen the rest of Vandy’s schedule?
The ‘Dores are 3-0 in the SEC and play at least two more teams — Mississippi State and Tennessee — they should beat (when’s the last time you could say that?) The other three are Georgia, Florida and Kentucky. Vandy’s probably not going to win in Athens — but Georgia’s probably going to lose another conference game. The Kentucky game is a toss-up. That leaves Florida in Nashville. The ‘Dores nearly beat the Gators in both 2005 and ’06, and this team, unlike those Vandy squads, doesn’t fold, outscoring foes 58-10 in the second half. Anything’s possible.
Parse that carefully and he’s seeing a distinct possibility that Vandy goes 4-1 down the stretch. Maybe it will, but color me a little skeptical that a team that’s last in the conference in total offense by a wide margin (over 30 ypg) and, even after that superb effort against Auburn, is still no better than tenth in total defense should consider a win over any conference team a given. And as for Florida, Mandel might want to consider that if there’s one team in the SEC that enjoys a clear advantage in special teams over Vandy, it’s the Gators.
That’s not to say that the Commodores haven’t been a great story so far. Of course they have. And I have to admit that my initial expectations for Vandy were on the low side. But 7-1 in the conference? Again, if he pulls if off, there’s no question that Bobby Johnson should be national coach of the year. I just wouldn’t go making room on the mantel yet, even if Mandel’s ready to come over and rearrange the furnishings in the room right now.