Vanderbilt embedded a video crew inside the locker room for the Commodores' season-ending game with Wake Forest. The video begins with defensive line coach Sean Spencer giving an impassioned pre-game message, imploring his players to give it their all, six seconds at a time.
Head coach James Franklin then jumps in and reminds his team to finish, the game and the season, strong. "Go out there as brothers, come back in here as brothers," said Franklin. "Let's go get this thing."
Finish they did. Vanderbilt 55, Wake Forest 21. After the game, Franklin runs through the litany of things Vanderbilt accomplished this season. The first eight-win season. The first six-game winning streak to close a season since 1948. The first season with five games scoring 40 or more points since 1915. And the list goes on. And on.
In the end, Franklin goes Paul Rhoads-lite with his players. "I'm so proud of you. I am so proud of every single person in this room."
For many players and coaches, the biggest reward of reaching a bowl game is the chance to get away from home and play in a new locale. They get to trade a cold, empty campus for a warm festive atmosphere, hopefully near a beach.
Not for James Franklin and Vanderbilt, though. The 8-4 Commodores will stay home and play N.C. State in the Music City Bowl.
Ever the recruiter, Franklin sees nothing but positives in staying home for the holidays. "It gives us an opportunity to continue to claim our stake to being Nashville's team," Franklin explained. "What better way to do it than the Music City Bowl?"
The lack of travel means Vanderbilt fans can stay home and see their team play, Franklin says.
"From what I understand, the ACC's allotment will be 12,000 tickets. The stadium holds 67,000 or something (LP Field holds 68,798), so I'm expecting that we're going to sell about 55,000 tickets for this game."
At the end of the day, Franklin knows that any bowl game is still something to be celebrated at Vanderbilt. The Commodores' second straight bowl game is another step in the right direction for Franklin's program.
"When we got here, the feeling around this program is different than it was right now," said Franklin. "So to see the excitement and the hope and the beliefe in these people's eyes of what Vanderbilt can be and what we're working toward every single day, I take a lot of pride in that. It means a lot to me."
Steve Spurrier can match an SEC record set by the legendary Paul "Bear" Bryant with a win on Saturday. A win over Wofford will be Spurrier's 64th at South Carolina, tying him with Rex Enright for the school record.
Spurrier is already the all-time winningest coach in Florida history with 122 victories, so, according to the Charleston Post and Courier, a win Saturday would join him with Bryant as the only coaches in SEC history to be the all-time wins leaders at two different schools.
Bryant won 60 games at Kentucky from 1946-53 and led Alabama to 232 victories from 1958-82.
Spurrier is still well behind Bryant for the all-time SEC wins record, but with 185 victories Spurrier will likely pass John Vaught of Ole Miss (190 wins) for fourth place and could close in on Dan McGuin of Vanderbilt (197 wins) for third place. Spurrier is 16 wins behind Vince Dooley for second place all-time. Bryant's record of 292 wins remains safe; Bryant also won 25 games at current SEC school Texas A&M, but the Aggies were, of course, members of the now-defunct Southwest Conference at the time.
Spurrier and Bryant are also the only SEC coaches to win more than 110 conference games. With 116 victories, the Old Ball Coach needs 43 more wins to catch the Bear.
After Vanderbilt reached bowl eligibility with a big win over Ole Miss (and collected their third road win for the first time since 1873) , James Franklin embraced some of his assistants, and even athletic director David Williams on the way to the locker room.
That didn't surprise us. Anyone who knows Coach Franklin knows that he is a passionate guy and we're sure that he wanted to make sure that his assistants knew that their hard work was appreciated and that they enjoyed the moment.
But on the way to the locker room, Franklin corners the Vanderbilt mascot (known as "Mr. Commodore"), picks him up, and personally escorts him over his shoulder to the locker the room to celebrate with the team.
After enjoying that section of the video, be sure to go back to the beginning and catch the pregame atmosphere in the locker room. Great stuff.
One of the more consistent names that we've heard brought up when coaching vacancies have been talked about over the past two off seasons is Vanderbilt's James Franklin. Coach Franklin and his staff have led the Commodores to back to back bowl eligible seasons for the first time in school history, and athletic director David Williams wants to make it clear that they're going to do everything they can to keep Franklin in Nashville.
“Whether it is an extension, whether it is changing terms, whether it is ripping [the contract] up and giving a new one, we’re prepared to do what we need to do for James Franklin to be the football coach. James and I meet every week, including this morning, and I think we’re both on the same page that we expect next year when we kick off in the opening game against Mississippi that James Franklin will still be at the helm of Vanderbilt football. I have every expectation of that.” Williams told the Nashville City Paper earlier this week.
“I think he has had a great season, and it’s not over. In my 13 years we’ve been eligible for bowls three times. This is the first time in my 13 years that we’ve been bowl-eligible with still two games to play."
Franklin earned a contract extension after last season's 6-6 regular season finish, and Vanderbilt has also shown that they're serious by recently breaking ground on a new indoor practice facility that they'll be able to use next October.
“I can’t predict what happens five, 10 years from now but I think James likes it here. He’s had success here. We certainly like having James here. I think we’re working on changing a lot of things as it relates to how football has been approached at Vanderbilt." Williams explained. "As long as we can continue to do that we don’t really have to worry about looking for something else.
“As James tells the kids, what can you ask for? You get to play in the SEC, you get to live in one of the best cities in the United States and you’re with one of the greatest universities in the world. Why would you leave?”
Given the high profile success that Franklin has had over in such a short period of time, it makes sense that many athletic directors want him leading their football programs, and we're confident that at least a few administrators have reached out to gauge his interest in leaving Nashville. But Williams has a good point...you're coaching in the greatest football conference in the country, live in one of the best cities in the nation, and get to sell one of the top educations in the world to recruits.
With all of that said, don't expect Franklin's name to get quieter as jobs open up. Him and his staff are doing a tremendous job and have a promising future.
Last season, Vanderbilt went into Lexington hosted and beat Kentucky handily, 38-8. Included in that victory was a run by Vandy running back Zac Stacy where he absolutely willed his way into the end zone, with what seemed like the entire Wildcat defense (literally) on his back.
Before every meeting this week, Kentucky defensive line coach David Turner has showed that clip to his guys. Just in case that message hasn't been heard loud and clear, he also sent the clip to their cell phones.
James Franklin made a strong case during his press conference yesterday for one of the toughest early season schedules in the country, noting that teams that they have lost to (South Carolina, Northwestern, Georgia and Florida) are a combined 23-3.
The Commodores lone FBS win was a 19-15 win over Missouri earlier this month, who is 3-4 and 0-4 in SEC play.
At the end of the day, Franklin believes the only people that the strength of schedule really applies to are the teams that are playing for the national championship.
"I think it's clearly obvious though when you look at our season and what we're doing. We've played really good people. We've been competitive every week except you could make an argument once (against Georgia). The combined record of the four teams we've lost to is 23-3."
"I went over that with my team yesterday, telling them that we need to keep everything in perspective. We're doing some nice things, but we need to get better. We lost to a good team this past week, but for us to get where we want to be as a program, you can't make the type of mistakes that we made against that type of opponent." Franklin said.
Franklin noted that depending on how you approach the tough early season schedule with the team it, it could go one of two ways, depending on the mental make up of the team.
"It's interesting because it's all how you spin it and handle it with your team. If you still have really good chemistry and your kids still have a great attitude and they believe and they're passionate and excited about what the future holds, then I think it's a positive, and it's our job as coaches to explain that to them."
"To everybody else, I don't know. Last year we're 3-0 and the perception of Vanderbilt football last year compared to this year, I don't know how people perceive it. I don't think people really care. I think at the end of the season, people don't say, `well you were undefeated but you didn't beat a ranked opponent all year long.' No one cares because you were undefeated." he explained.
"I think the strength of scheduling only really counts if you're playing for the national championship. That's when it really figures in. Besides that, at the end of the year no one is going to say, `that was an ugly win versus Missouri.' Nobody's going to say, `but that win was against Presbyterian.' They're wins and they all count. Every single one of them count."
Franklin went on to explain that there are two perceptions of the program. There is the internal perception of the team, and how they handle everything during the course of a season, and the external perception and how people see the program and where they're at.
He added that the staff and everyone in the football building remain confident in the direction they're headed and the way that they're doing things.
It's hard to believe we're sitting at the halfway point of the 2012 college football season. We could have sworn Labor Day was just a week or two ago. Regardless, 50 percent of the season is already in the books. Here's what we found noteworthy from Week 7 of the college football slate.
1. Move over Ohio, is New Hampshire the new Cradle of Coaches? Probably not, but this stat (courtesy of Bruce Feldman) is astounding: Coaches from the state of New Hampshire, Chip Kelly and Dan Mullen, currently sit at 12-0 so far this season. Not bad for a state with zero FBS programs and just one FBS signee in 2012.
2. Speaking of the Buckeye State, Ohio stands as the top state in college football right now. Urban Meyer is 7-0 and ranked No. 7 in the AP poll in his first season at Ohio State. Butch Jones is 5-0 and ranked No. 21 at Cincinnati. Frank Solich has Ohio at 7-0 and No. 25 in the AP. In fact, the MAC East standings read Ohio, Kent State (5-1, 3-0), Bowling Green (4-3, 2-1) and Miami of Ohio (3-4, 2-1) while Toledo also sits atop the MAC West at 6-1 and 4-0 in the league. Ohio's seven FBS teams are a combined 38-14. Oh yeah, and Mount Union is also 5-0 and has allowed only seven points all season.
3. Arkansas seems to have put the wheels back on the wagon. One week after handling Auburn 24-7, the Razorbacks again looked like the top 10 team many expected to see in a 49-7 dismantling of Kentucky. No coach in the country could use a two-game winning streak more than the embattled John L. Smith. Yes, the wins came against teams that are a combined 0-8 in the SEC. But when you are 1-4, a two-game winning streak is a two-game winning streak.
4. Duke missed its first chance at bowl eligibility. David Cutcliffe's team jumped out in front of Virginia Tech 20-0 only to see the Hokies reel off the game's final 41 points. Duke's next three opponents (North Carolina, Clemson and Florida State) are a combined 16-4 until a date with 2-4 Georgia Tech in Atlanta on Nov. 17.
#Duke's David Cutcliffe reiterates Tuesday statement that #Hokies' Frank Beamer is the top coach in the country
5. Congrats to James Franklin and Vanderbilt for finally cracking the code to Florida's fourth quarter defense. After not allowing a point in any fourth quarter this season, Vanderbilt managed to register 10 points in the final frame on Saturday night. It wasn't enough to pull the upset as Will Muschamp's team improved to 6-0 with a 31-17 win. After being outscored 72-22 in fourth quarters last season, the Gators hold a 54-10 fourth quarter edge this season. Florida also claims come-from-behind wins over Texas A&M, Tennessee, LSU and Vanderbilt. Conditioning was clearly an emphasis of Muschamp in the off-season, and strength coach Jeff Dillman has definitely succeeded in transforming his team.
6. We're glad to see that Jerry Kill plans to coach again this Saturday. Kill suffered a seizure in his private locker room less than an hour after Minnesota's 21-13 loss to Northwestern on Saturday. Coach Kill was released from a Minneapolis hospital on Sunday morning.
7. Wisconsin has returned to form after a shaky start to the season. New offensive coordinator Matt Canada and interim offensive line coach Bart Miller have found their footing, and the Badgers' offense is back to its old ways. In a 38-14 win over Purdue, the Wisconsin offense rushed 57 times for 467 yards and four touchdowns. Starting tailback Montee Ball contributed 247 yards and three touchdowns on 29 rushes. After rushing for just 3.3 yards per carry over their first five games, Wisconsin is churning out 7.1 yards per attempt over its last two games. The Badgers are 5-2 and 2-1 in the Big Ten, a full two wins ahead of the pack of bowl-eligible teams in the Leaders Division.
8. Oregon will face an interesting challenge at Arizona State on Thursday night. In his first season in Tempe, Todd Graham has the Sun Devils sitting at 5-1 and ranked No. 24 in the Coaches Poll. Paul Randolph's defense is far and away the best unit in the Pac-12 on paper. Arizona State leads the league in total defense by nearly 60 yards per game over second place USC. The Sun Devils is giving up just 3.92 yards per play, nearly a full yard better than the rest of the conference. Randolph's unit also leads the conference in pass efficiency defense (4.86 yards per attempt), and its 3.23 yards per carry allowed is over a full yard better than Oregon's Pac-12 opposition to date. And then there's this: the last time Oregon traveled to the Grand Canyon State on a Thursday night was in 2007 when the No. 2 ranked Ducks lost to Arizona, 34-24. Chip Kelly and co. will hope history doesn't repeat itself this week. Scott and Zach from our staff will be at this game. More on this to come later in the week.
9. Notre Dame trailed for the first time this season on Saturday. The Fighting Irish actually trailed for a full quarter against Stanford after falling behind 10-3 at halftime; they didn't tie the game until a 24-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter. Brian Kelly's team trailed again 13-10 before scoring the game's final 10 points in a 20-13 overtime win. Bob Diaco's defense still has not (officially) surrendered an offensive touchdown in four full games.
10. Midweek action begins this week in college football. Starting with Louisiana - Lafayette at North Texas tomorrow night, we will have Tuesday or Wednesday night football all but one week through Thanksgiving.