Last weekend, around 22:00 EST, for the first time in my life I was joyous due to a UT win over Vandy. Over the years, the game was a mortal lock. The hiring of James Franklin appeared to have ended all of that. Vandy started turning teams over, hitting harder and playing four quarters; they finally started making teams earn a W over them. They thumped Ole Miss, Kentucky and all of their OOC opponents. But more importantly, they took Arkansas, Georgia and Florida down to the wire; inspiring many to claim that Vandy had surpassed the Volunteers. It even led Clay Travis to gather his followers, pitchfork in hand, to come for Derek Dooley's head (a man he claimed just last year would lead the Big Orange back to the promise land), so he could be replaced by Franklin.
Mark my words; the Vols will be back. It might not be under Dooley, but he will have a hand in their resurgence. Four years is what he deserves and what he must get. If he doesn't, the gap will continue to shrink between Nashville and Knoxville. And, for someone who is finally glad UT beat Vandy, I can't think of a worse thing. Now that I got that off of my chest, lets get to the picks.
(3) Arkansas v (1) LSU @ 2:30, Friday on CBS:
As a fan, there are two ways to look at this game. You can root for Arkansas to win, in order to create a three-way tie in the SEC West. This would, I believe, send Alabama to the SEC Championship, thanks to the weird tiebreaker rules in the SEC. This would end with the SEC
(6) Virginia Tech v (24) UVA @ 3:30 on ABC/ESPN2:
I spent Thanksgiving with my fiancee's family in Charlottesville. The main topic was, of course, this game. I asked them what they thought were the keys to the game. The answers I got were well thought out, concise and thoroughly pessimistic. The keys according to her family, who have been to every home UVA game this season, are as follows: UVA needs to shorten the field/win the field position battle, protect the ball, score on the few opportunities they will get from Tech, keep it a low scoring affair and find a way to make Logan Thomas uncomfortable. These are of course important to every team (outside of Arkansas and the low scoring aspect), every game. But these keys are even more important when it comes to this game, as UVA is clearly outmatched talent-wise (Directly attributed to the Al Groh era). If they can keep VT on the right side of the 50 and maybe even turn them over, UVA stands a shot. I hope. I'll be pulling for the upset. I'm just not sure how much faith I can put in a team that needed OT to beat Idaho and lost to Southern Miss at home. VT 24, UVA 17.
Elsewhere in the Commonwealth:
The 17th ranked Norfolk State Spartans travel the six miles to play the 9th Old Dominion Monarchs at the Spartans old stomping grounds and ODU's home field (Foreman Field). They'll bring the Legion and 1600 of their fans. The Monarchs will be hosting with 17,500 of their fans and the best mascot in all the land. It's going to be loud. It's going to be fun. It's even being referred to as the "Battle of Norfolk" and is clearly a rivalry in the making. This will be the first FCS playoff game for both teams, though it's taken NSU much longer to make it than it has the 3 y/o Monarchs. The game is sold out and should be a dandy. I'll be there, clad in blue and silver. I won't pick a winner. But I will say this, a MEAC team hasn't won a playoff game since 1999 (knock on wood).
Also, JMU (for some reason) travels to Richmond, Kentucky, to play EKU. The Dukes should roll, but they should also be hosting this game. So, who knows what'll happen? You can watch this one on ESPNU (the rest of the FCS games will be on ESPN3). Enjoy your Thanksgiving weekend, everyone.