James-Franklin-Vanderbilt-Commodores-2012-football-570x374The Vanderbilt football team went 8-4 in the 2012 regular season. It was the first time that Vandy has recorded 8 wins since 1982. Their reward for their accomplishment is a trip to the Music City Bowl. If Vanderbilt beats North Carolina State in the bowl game, they will have their first 9-win season since 1915. This will be Vanderbilt’s 3rd trip to a bowl game in the last 5 seasons. It will be their second trip to the Music City Bowl. This will be the first time in Vanderbilt’s history that they will be playing in a bowl game in back-to-back seasons. This new success in the Vanderbilt football program has may fans excited about it’s future moving forward on West End.

The bowl selection experience is not as cut and dry as some fans might think. Vanderbilt fans are relatively new in this process due to the fact that before 2008, Vandy had not played in a bowl game since the early 80’s. Vanderbilt fans are starting to learn that in order to get into one of the bowl games played on New Years Day, it takes more than just a good football team. It takes a big fan base. Bowl committees are in the business to make money. When given the choice, they are going to choose the team that will put the most butts in the seats.

Because of this, the Gator Bowl passed on choosing Vanderbilt and invited Mississippi State to play Northwestern on New Years Day. Both Vanderbilt and Mississippi State have an 8-4 record. Vanderbilt’s SEC record was 5-3 while Mississippi State’s was 4-4. Both Vanderbilt and Mississippi State beat Tennessee and Auburn. Vanderbilt defeated Ole Miss while Mississippi State lost to their state rival. If you just judge by the numbers, you would guess that the Gator Bowl would invited Vanderbilt over Mississippi State. But that’s not what happened. Mississippi State travels better than Vanderbilt in term of their respective fan bases.

So how can Vanderbilt change the perception that their fans don’t travel. The first step must happen at the Music City Bowl. Vanderbilt fans must sellout LP Field (69,143 capacity), the site of the Music City Bowl. Vanderbilt will be going for its best record since 1915. The game is in its home city, Nashville. There is absolutely no excuse for a lack of fan support at the Music City Bowl. The old excuse used to be that if you put a product on the field, the fans would come. Well…the product is on the field. Let’s see if the fans come. The challenge has been sent to Vandy Nation.

The 2012 BlueCross Bowl is from Thursday November 29th to Saturday December 1st. The games will be played in Cookeville, TN at the newly renovated Tennessee Tech football field, Tucker Stadium. On Thursday, Webb School of Knoxville plays Evangelical Christian School (ECS) and Memphis University School (MUS) faces off against Ensworth High.

The games Friday are as follows: Huntingdon vs. Gordonsville, Christian Academy of Knoxville (CAK) vs. Milan, Columbia vs. Beech

The games Saturday are as follows: Friendship Christian vs. Adamsville, Fulton vs. Covington, Maryville vs. Whitehaven

Division II, Class A Championship: Webb School of Knoxville vs. ECS

Knoxville Webb enters the championship game with an 11-1 record. Their only loss was to perennial powerhouse Alcoa out of East Tennessee 14-7. They have cruised through the playoffs so far scoring over 40 points in each of its two playoff games while allowing a combined 21 points. Their opponent in the final is ECS. ECS was only 4-6 after the regular season. They defeated 2 teams that beat them during the regular season, St. George’s and Fayette Academy, to make a run to the finals. 11-1 Knoxville Webb is looking to roll in the finals but don’t count out Evangelical Christian (ECS). They are hot right now and sometimes that can take a team all the way.

Division II, Class AA Championship: MUS vs. Ensworth High School

The nightcap Thursday night will feature two high powered perennial powerhouses. This could be one of the best championship games of the year. 10-2 MUS plays 12-0 Ensworth in a rematch of the CSS Game of the Week matchup on August 17th. Ensworth won that game 35-28. After defeating MUS, Ensworth did not look back. Their next closes game was a 42-17 victory over Father Ryan. MUS, after the loss to Ensworth, bounced back like a champ. They defeated every Tennessee team they faced for the rest of the season. They did suffer a loss to Olive Branch out of Mississippi. In the playoffs, MUS squeaked past Brentwood Academy  in the semifinals to set up this championship rematch. Look for the stars to shine bright under the lights in this game and watch out for an Ensworth running back named Corin Elder. He’s a beast.

Division I, Class 1A Championship: Huntingdon vs. Gordonsville

Friday kicks off early at 11:00 AM Central time with a matchup of two teams with great offenses. Both 12-2 Huntingdon and 12-1 Gordonsville can light up the scoreboard. Their ranked 1st and 2nd on Coacht.com and so only a meeting in the State Championship Game should settle which team should be on top. Jacob Warbritton leads Huntingdon’s attack. He had a big game in the semifinals against Nashville Christian. For Gordonsville, Payton Watson scored two touchdowns in the second half to put the game away against Coalfield. Look for the scoring to occur early and often in this midday showdown.

Division I, Class 2A Championship: Friendship Christian vs. Adamsville

The Friendship Christian Commanders face off against the Adamsville Cardinals Saturday at 11AM. It will be the first game of the day. The battle will be between 2 teams that are 12-1. The lone loss that Friendship Christian suffered is a little more forgiving than Adamsville’s defeat. The team that defeated Friendship Christian, Gordonsville, is playing in the Class 1A Championship Game. Adamsville lost in their opener to Chester County. Chester County would go on to finish the season with a 5-6 record. But don’t be fooled by Adamsville’s early season mishap. They righted the ship & got over the hump defeating Dresden 28-7 in the semifinals to earn a trip to the Championship Game. Friendship Christian, the defending champs, come in to the finals rolling having defeated Boyd Buchanan 27-6. Saturday will determine if Adamsville can get past one final hurdle and take down the champ for the ship.

Division I, Class 3A Championship: Christian Academy of Knoxville vs. Milan

Christian Academy of Knoxville, commonly referred to as CAK enters the State Championship Game looking to repeat as State Champs. CAK, having figured out a way to slay the dragon that is Alcoa High School, now tries to set up shop as king of the mountain. But Milan won’t make it easy for them. Milan enters the championship game with a 12-2 record. They are out for revenge for it was CAK who defeated them last year in this very game.  As CAK had to learn how to defeat Alcoa, Milan is learning how to take down CAK in the biggest game of the season. CAK defeated Elizabethtown by 10 in the semis (they defeated Alcoa by 2 in the quarters). Milan defeated Nashville’s own CPA by 8 in the semifinals setting up the rematch Friday afternoon.

Division I, Class 4A Championship: Fulton vs. Covington

The Covington Chargers are one of the few undefeated teams left in the state of Tennessee. Sent home last year by Maplewood High in the semifials, they look to finish the job this year and win State. Standing in their way is the Fulton Falcons from the East Tennessee area. Fulton is 12-2 (sensing a theme in this article yet? Few Cinderellas made it to the ball). One of their losses came at the hands of Alcoa. Fulton will be riding the momentum coming from their 41-27 defeat of Giles County in the semifinals. And they will be counting on a stingy defense that forced Giles County to have 6 turnovers. This Fulton defense has pitched 4 shutouts already this season. If they hope to take down undefeated Covington, they’ll need to bring everything they have. Covington features a very dangerous offense whose big plays showed up in the semifinals where they had two scoring plays (plays…not drives) of over 70 yards to push their lead to 21-0 by the half against Jackson Liberty. So the stage is set. The stingy defense, Fulton, vs. the big play offense, Covington, for all the marbles. Contrasting styles are what make championship games fun to watch.

Division I, Class 5A Championship: Columbia vs. Beech

Beech was the subject of our previous article as they took their unbeaten record into Jackson, TN to square off against Jackson North Side. Beech won the game pulling away in the second half. Now, they meet Columbia in the State Championship Game. Columbia Central, at one time a basketball powerhouse where the Lions Den was a feared place to enter, now sports a great football team. They enter the championship game with a 12-2 record. It was a big interception in the second half by Columbia to take the lead against Powell in the semifinals and Columbia would never look back winning the game 32-27. Beech comes into the game undefeated and riding what most people in the midstate call “The Herd Express”. Jalen Hurd, the junior running back at Beech, has lead Beech all season long. Now Beech sits one win away from being crowned State Champs. In the semifinals he rushed for 396 yards and 4 touchdowns to help fuel a 50 point second half sending Beech to the finals. The question will be can Columbia stop the express because no one this year has been able to.

Division I, Class 6A Championship: Maryville vs. Whitehaven

This has the potential to be the best game of the weekend. It is the only battle of 2 undefeated teams in the State Championship. For Maryville, it is business as usual. They are always around this time of year and here they come again. They are the defending champions. But they almost didn’t make it. In the semifinals, another undefeated team at the time, Siegel, had the lead with less than 3 minutes to go. Maryville had to run the 2 minute offense to get down the field and score a touchdown in order to defeat Siegel and earn a trip to the Championship Game. Whitehaven won a shootout against Mt. Juliet in the semifinals behind the running game of Mark Dodson. Now they will bring that running game to the finals in an attempt to avenge last year’s State Championship loss to Maryville. Rematch are always fun and it appears that the TSSAA committee might have saved the best one for last. Saturday night under the lights, 2 undefeated teams will go at it once again. Whitehaven will be looking to do what no team has been able to do since White Station in 2009. Defeat Maryville in the finals.

Who is the best team in the NBA? No, it is not the Miami Heat. It’s not the Los Angeles Lakers. It’s not the Oklahoma City Thunder or the San Antonio Spurs. The best team in the NBA is the Memphis Grizzlies. After a tough 101-92 loss to the hated Los Angeles Clippers, the Memphis Grizzlies have won 8 games in a row. 3 of the 8 wins have been against the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, and the New York Knicks. The Grizzlies, Spurs, and the Heat are the only 3 teams with 8 wins in the NBA. The Spurs have 2 losses while the Grizzlies only have 1. And the Grizzlies defeated the Heat 104-86 making the Memphis Grizzlies king of the hill for now at least. It is important to recognize that the NBA season is 82 games long but for a team that has had to suffer two game 7 Playoff losses in the last 2 seasons, a fast start is just what the doctor ordered. For this blue-collared team from Memphis, these early season wins have them off to the right start for the 2012-2013 NBA Season.

Friday November 23rd, the day after Thanksgiving, 2 teams will meet in Jackson, TN to decide who will play in the  BlueCross Bowl Class 5A State Finals. Beech High School and Jackson North Side High School are both deserving of a trip to the finals but only one will go. Both schools are undefeated. Both schools have had impressive campaigns thus far. And both schools escaped near disaster just a week ago. Beech High School had to go for 2 points after scoring a touchdown in the 4th in order to survive a scare given to them by Clarksville Northeast. The final score was 44-43. Jackson North Side had to battle back from a 14 point second half deficit to advance past Ridgeway. The final score there was 45-42.

And so the match-up that many associated with Class 5A have been waiting for will occur Friday in Jackson, TN. Beech is lead by their standout tailback Jalen Hurd. Hurd is considered by many to be the best running back in the entire state. He is being recruited by every big name college football program and he is only a junior. He had 25 carries for 175 yards and 2 touchdowns against Clarksville Northeast. Jackson Northside is lead by their quarterback Adam Craig. He had 424 yards of total offense in the win over Ridgeway. He is also being looked at by different colleges. While his fame may not be as big as Jalen Hurd, don’t be fooled. This kid can play!

The one common opponent on both teams schedule was Clarksville Northeast. Both teams barely escaped with a W. So in terms of predicting who will win Friday, good luck. The game could go either way. Expect a sellout standing room only crowd Friday night. The city of Jackson will be introduced to what most folks in the Nashville and middle Tennessee area like to call “The Hurd Express” as Jalen will lead Beech into hostile territory in search of a ticket to Cookeville (Blue Cross Bowl). Adam Craig will not make it easy for Mr. Hurd as he will be looking to shine in front of his home crowd and celebrate a trip to the finals at the end of the night. No matter who wins, Friday should be a great day for high school football in Tennessee.

Who should be ranked 1st in the nation right now.
Now….all of the rankings are current BCS Rankings as of November 17, 2012.
The teams will remain anonymous so that the game is actually fair. (Unlike real life…)
At the bottom vote for who you think should be ranked 1st after looking at the body of work of these teams.
Team A:
The Current Rank of Teams Defeated by Team A: #12, #13, #21,
The Current Rank of Teams that Beat Team A: No losses
Record: 10-0
Best Statistical Record To Date: Tied fo 1st in the Nation for Overall Points Against
Team B:
The Current Rank of Teams Defeated by Team B: #7, #8, #9,
The Current Rank of Teams that Beat Team B: #5
Record: 9-1
Best Statistical Record To Date: 3rd in the Nation for Overall Points Against
Team C:
The Current Rank of Teams Defeated by Team C: #12, #23, #24
The Current Rank of Teams that Beat Team C: No losses
Record: 10-0
Best Statistical Record To Date: 8th in the Nation for Overall Points For
Team D:
The Current Rank of Teams Defeated by Team D: #7, #21,
The Current Rank of Teams that Beat Team D: #8
Record: 9-1
Best Statistical Record To Date: Tied for 1st in the Nation for Overall Points Against
Team E:
The Current Rank of Teams Defeated by Team E: #18, #25,
The Current Rank of Teams that Beat Team E: No losses
Record: 10-0
Best Statistical Record To Date: 1st in the Nation for Overall Points For
Team F:
The Current Rank of Teams Defeated by Team F: #6,
The Current Rank of Teams that Beat Team F: #9
Record: 9-1
Best Statistical Record To Date: 22nd in the Nation for Overall Points Against

After a 1-4 start to the season, the LA Lakers fired Mike Brown. Somehow 5 games was enough evidence for Lakers management to determine that Mike Brown was not the man to lead the “Lake Show” on this year’s quest to make it to the NBA Finals. The move makes absolutely no sense. If the Lakers did not want Mike Brown to coach the team, they should have fired him during the off-season. That way Mike Brown could have moved on to another job and the Lakers could have started the season with the guy they wanted.

THEN

To compound the mayhem going on in LA, the Lakers decided to go after Phil Jackson. Phil Jackson, realizing he was in position to ask for everything including the kitchen sink, stated his demands towards Laker management. Somehow Lakers management was appalled with the circumstances with which Phil Jackson would come back and turned to Mike D’Antoni for the head coaching position.

So……in review, the Lakers fired a defensive guru who had no ability to coach the offense & hired an offensive guru who doesn’t understand the concept of playing defense. So much for the old phrase “defense wins championships”. Apparently the Lakers feel that that idea is played out.

There was a brief period of “I told you so” coming from Laker’s supporters when the Lakers won 2 games in a row during the post Mike Brown era. But make a note that those two games were against the (3-4) Golden State Warriors & the (2-6) Sacramento Kings. It was business as usual on November 13th when the Lakes played the Spurs. They lost 84-82.

To think Mike D’Antoni is the answer to the Lakers prayers is to believe in Santa Claus at Christmas. D’Antoni is a good coach but he has never came through in the Playoffs. Of the 9 seasons he’s coached, D’Antoni has made the playoffs 5 times and has neve been to the NBA Finals. At least Mike Brown made a trip to the NBA Finals while in Cleveland. Mike D’Antoni’s lack of a defensive strategy has always surfaced in the crucial moments in the Playoffs. The Lakers made a rash decision thining their Ace in the hole, Phil Jackson, would return with open arms and now are stuck in limbo with Mike D’Antoni. Kobe Bryant’s quest for a 6th NBA Championship ring has not been made any easier by the events of this past week.

November 19, 2011. Jordan Rogers threw a pass to start the overtime period that was intercepted by Eric Gordon and returned 90 yards for a touchdown for Tennessee. Neyland Stadium went crazy as Tennessee Volunteer players ran on to the field to celebrate their 27-21 victory over Vanderbilt. It was one of the hardest losses for Vanderbilt to take. It was the first time in a long while that Vandy had been favored to win in this one-sided neighborhood rivalry. Yet once again, Vandy found a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

To add salt to the wound, a tape surfaced days later with a recording of Derek Dooley saying after the game that “Tennessee always beats the sh&$ out of Vanderbilt”.

Here is a link describing the situation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1En2uf5gdk

In the video you can see James Franklin’s response once he was made aware of this video. He says that he’ll discuss it next year.

Well….it’s next year. And again Vanderbilt is favored against their hated rivals from the East. At 6-4, they are in position to have their best season since 1982. At 6-4 they are in position to have a chance to play in a New Years Day Bowl. Such accomplishments seemed unimaginable only 2 years ago before Franklin arrived on campus. James Franklin is telling the media all of the right things about the video. But don’t be fooled. He is definitely reminding his players about the scene that took place in the UT locker room one year ago. About the pain they felt when they walked out of Neyland Stadium knowing they let one get away.

There is plenty of motivation for Vanderbilt to play hard Saturday. This game Saturday could send a message across the state. Tennessee is hobbling in with a 4-6 record losers of 5 of their last 6 games. They have not won a SEC game yet this year. They just lost in 4 overtimes to a Missouri team that Vanderbilt defeated 19-15. Reports on the radio are saying that Tennessee could not sell all of its share of tickets for the game Saturday and their head coach will more than likely be fired at the end of the season. But none of that matters Saturday because Vandy has only beaten Tennessee once (2005) since 1983. Stats & records mean nothing this week. The only thing that will matter is the score when the clock hits zero. Can Vandy get over the hump? Can Vanderbilt seize the day?