1. Scoring points have been an issue and QB play has been inconsistent. What should BC fans expect when Vanderbilt is on offense?
VSL: Unfortunately, not very much. Offensive Coordinator Ted Cain’s play-calling has long been public enemy #1 for Vanderbilt fans. You can strike me dead if there isn’t at least one end-around reverse (our 1 trick play), and a lot of QB keepers in 3rd and long situations. If BC’s defense is ever surprised by play, it’ll be one of the first times all season. Vanderbilt likes to run the ball, and that has certainly been the bread and butter of the offense. A big part of that will be whether Jared Hawkins is able to play after injuring his foot in the Tennessee game. While Jeff Jennings and Gaston Miller have played well, Hawkins is absolutely the best running back on the team. The QB question remains a mystery. The smart money is on Senior Chris Nickson getting the start, what happens after that is anyone’s guess. Mackenzi Adams and Nickson have gone back and forth all year spelling each other, playing well for a short time, and then subsequently being replaced by the other in short order. VSL would love to see the Larry Smith era start in earnest during the Music City Bowl, especially if Nickson struggles. While it was only a half, a lot of us really liked what we saw against Wake Forest.
2. You were only 3-3 at home this year. How much do you think playing in Nashville is an advantage? Is the "first bowl game in generation" stuff a distraction or a huge motivating factor?
VSL: There’s really no way to know. Vanderbilt has a way of coming out flat in “big” games, and then coming out surprisingly sharp when you least expect it. I personally think playing “at home” is much less of an advantage than playing in their first bowl game in 26 years. With that said, getting to win 6 took a long time, and the Commodores played uninspired football once the monkey was off their back against Tennessee at home and then at Wake Forest. I would hope that playing in their first bowl and having a shot at their first winning season since 1982 would be a huge motivating factor for this team. But there really is no telling. The defense always comes to play. It’s the offense and the special teams that have been the biggest question marks after Vanderbilt’s 5-0 start.
3. During the ACC expansion many critics said BC would be the "Vanderbilt of the ACC" meaning we wouldn't compete. Now clearly things have improved of late, but as Vanderbilt fans do you believe that your program can compete in the SEC on a regular basis? Are the supposed limitations legitimate or do you think this season is a sign of things to come?
VSL: There is no doubt that Vanderbilt can “compete” in the SEC. Now, does that mean Vanderbilt is likely to win an SEC title any time soon? Probably not, but there is no reason this can’t be a perennial 7-5 or 8-4 team. It’s certainly a “coulda, woulda, shoulda” argument, but if Vanderbilt comes to play against Mississippi State, Duke, Tennessee, and Wake Forest this team could easily have been 9-3 or even 10-2. They weren’t, and that’s football, but there is no doubt that Bobby Johnson and his staff have closed the talent-gap with other SEC teams. Are we ever going to be as deep? No. But this coaching staff has done a tremendous job at evaluating and finding talent otherwise overlooked (look at first round picks Jay Culter and Chris Williams). Vanderbilt is no longer the SEC doormat in the sense that teams can look past the Commodores. That is certainly progress. Making a bowl was huge for Vanderbilt, win or lose, because it dispels (somewhat) the “same old Vanderbilt” moniker that this team had acquired with so many close calls over the years. While they certainly “backed into” the Music City Bowl, Commodore fans have to be happy with how this team is progressing. With a new offensive coordinator, there’s no telling what this team could do.
4. What is your prediction for the game?
VSL: It’s a homer pick, but Vanderbilt 20 – BC 13
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