Wake Forest's 2013 football season comes to a merciful end on Saturday, as the Deacs travel to Nashville to face the white-hot Vanderbilt Commodores. We asked Christian D'Andrea of SB Nation's Vandy site, Anchorofgold.com, to answer a few questions for us in advance of this titanic struggle in Music City. Special thanks to our friends in Nashville for contributing our coverage!
Let's cut right to the chase: how many more years does Franklin stay at Vandy? It's got to end some time, right? What's plan B if he bolts?
Everyone wants to sell Franklin to the highest bidder, but I think he stays and has a Pat Fitzgerald type influence in Nashville. Franklin's entire sales pitch - one that's been extremely successful with recruits - is that he's focused on building a new tradition from the ground up. If he leaves before his first full recruiting class can graduate (2-3 more years), then he's abandoning that premise, and I think he knows that will cost him when it comes to his future.
On top of that, Vanderbilt has made it a point to compensate him well. The university has confirmed that he's in the top 1/3rd of SEC coaches when it comes to pay. The school has also made it a point to keep his staff intact and well paid. More importantly, Vandy is buying in on a stronger culture of athletics, renovating Vanderbilt Stadium, fixing up team locker rooms across all sports, and recently building a state-of-the-art indoor practice facility. The one thing that could lure Franklin right now is a five-star legacy position where an intense fanbase (the biggest thing he's missing in Nashville) is built in. USC or Texas could offer that, but I think those schools are more interested in a higher profile, more experienced coach than Franklin in 2013.
Who else, outside of Jordan Matthews, should the Wake defenders focus on. Wake's strength is its defense, provided it isn't on the field for 50 minutes.
Jonathan Krause mans the other receiver slot for Vanderbilt, and the senior has developed into the team's biggest deep threat in the 2000s (link:http://www.anchorofgold.com/2013/11/14/5103970/jonathan-krause-emergence-at-wideout-jordan-matthews-all-sec-chris-boyd). If teams focus too strongly on Matthews, Krause has the ability to make opponents pay for ignoring him. On the ground, pinball tailback Jerron Seymour has looked like Zac Stacy-lite this year. He's been limited by extremely conservative playcalling in Vandy's last 2-3 games, but he has the talent to give the Wake defense headaches provided Nikita Whitlock doesn't steal his soul early on.
For decades, football fans have compared Vandy and Wake Forest as near-equals because of the academic reputation and unfortunate football history. While that may have been true last century, I think playing in the SEC has Vandy football on a much higher plane. Agree/disagree?
I'd agree. SEC football gives Vanderbilt exposure that the ACC can't match, even with Pitt, Syracuse, and Louisville joining the fray (and as someone who spent his college years in the Steel City, let me congratulate you in advance for the multiple conference games you will now win when Pitt fumbles away a late lead or botches an extra point or does something else equally heartbreaking). However, Wake still has a BCS bowl to fall back on, and Vanderbilt is still years away from even getting close to that plane. So, in terms of exposure, Vanderbilt gets the edge in the SEC. However, the ACC provides more opportunities to create accomplishments for a program than the Southeastern Conference does.
Do you think that anyone will show up on Saturday? It's a holiday, and you beat Tennessee last week. What else is there to promote for the game?
James Franklin hasn't lost in November since 2011, and the winning-est senior class to date will be playing in Nashville for the last time. However, the 'Dores barely got the stadium half-full against Kentucky, and that was a league game that gave Commodore fans their only opportunity to gloat over UK fans until baseball season starts. Wake is a better team than the Kentucky, but there's little impetus to come out to this for for a mostly apathetic fan base, especially when Vandy is more or less locked into the Liberty Bowl at this point.
So, if the promise of a potential nine-win season isn't enough to get fans to the stadium, I'm not sure what will. There's a chance that last week's win over Tennessee will bring some converts, but it's a slow building process for a fan-base that's been burned in the past. Franklin will be able to fill that 40k seat stadium with black and gold, but it's going to take some time to erase the stench the last four decades left behind there.
Wake Forest worries me. This is a big trap game for the Commodores, and Wake showed that they can hang with good teams by taking Duke and Miami into deep waters. The fact that Vandy hasn't been a good team lately, despite three straight wins, is even more concerning. However, James Franklin has separated himself from the Vanderbilt coaches of the past by winning the games he's supposed to. I think the Demon Deacons will make it close, and potential take a late lead, but the 'Dores will come back to close out a second straight four-win November.
Vanderbilt 23, Wake Forest 21