Finally. It's time. Well, it's not time juuuuuuust yet. But it's almost time! We are ever so close to toe meeting leather in Nashville, and all the hype is finally put against the grain: is sixth year Brandon Doughty as good or better than fifth-year Brandon Doughty? Has that bloody defense improved? Will Jeff Brohm not take the foot off the throat in the second half? Hopefully, hopefully and hopefully are my answers before the ball is kicked. Let's get you ready for the season opener.
Start time: Thursday, September 3 at 7:00 p.m. CDT
Location: Nashville, TN - Vanderbilt Stadium
TV: SEC Network. And for those of you who complained about the Tops getting moved to a Thursday night for a primetime spot on national TV, then I don't know what to tell you except you are probably the worst. No hard feelings, though.
Betting line: WKU (finally) is a 2.5 point favorite, while the over/under is at 64.5
The View From The 'Dores: The fellas over at Anchor Of Gold have you covered from head to toe.
Series: Vandy is 3-0 against WKU, with the last meeting coming in 1938. Prepare your blinkers for a Hilltopper bulge to open the season in the rootinist-tootinist time since Christmas Eve.
The Opponent: The Vanderbilt Commodores. Or, as otherwise known as, the Ivy League School of the South, or if you're more into demoralizing a conference, The Other School That The SEC Keeps Around Because of Basketball. Derek Mason enters his second season at the helm of the 'Dores, going a very Vandy-esque 3-9 in 2014. However, despite the rough inaugural year, Mason has an SEC high 18 returning starers (along with Tennessee, nine on offense and nine on defense) including leading rusher from last year Ralph Webb (212 carries, 907 yards, four touchdowns) and four of its five leading receivers, lead by C.J. Duncan (28 catches, 441 yards, four touchdowns). As a defense, Vanderbilt allowed 33.2 points per game and surrendered 106 total points off turnovers while also allowing an average of 183.8 yards on the ground and a whooping 402.1 yards per game through the air. Vandy hasn't announced who their starting QB will be (whether or not Mason himself knows or not is still a bit up in the air) and that might prove to be a bit of a distraction, but much like WKU, Vanderbilt is looking to begin 2015 on the right foot and right the ship after a three-win year in 2014.
The Toppas: I don't know about you, but as excited as I am to get the season underway and see what this 2015 has in them, I'm also kind of tired of hearing about the hype and the expectations. There's only so much you can say without it getting a little old, you know? I agree with the old adage that any publicity is good publicity but I also believe there is such a thing as too much publicity, and I think the Tops might be tops in the country in that category. ANYWAY, all eyes are, obviously, going to be on Doughty to see if he picks up 2015 where he left off in 2014. Can Leon Allen improve upon a campaign in which he rushed for over 1,540 yards and 13 scores on 272 rushes? Will Nacarius Fant be able to replace Willie McNeal and/or Joel German? One of the biggest concerns heading into Thursday is the issue of health - can Jared Dangerfield play? Can Dejon Brown play? How will not having Anthony Wales available impact Allen's usage? How will guys who are replacing the injured do? Lots of questions - a lot more questions than answers - that are going to make the first 60 minutes of the year either really fun or a way too early case of wanting to step off the ledge.
Prediction - They 'Spose To Be SEC?: WKU is going to be a good football team in 2015. Vanderbilt is going to be better than 3-9 in 2015 and they'll be eager to prove it. I think people are wanting a repeat of last year's opener against Bowling Green State. And, as fun and unexpected as that was, I think the best thing for the Hilltoppers to begin the year is to be in a battle with Vanderbilt. I expect the offense to struggle - not mightily, but struggle - and for the defense to be the talk of the night as the Tops get that third SEC victory by a 42-28 final.