On Saturday my Vanderbilt Commodores host the mighty Alabama Crimson Tide in Nashville. For some reason, the game was selected by CBS for its coveted 3:30 p.m. slot, usually reserved for Saturday’s top SEC matchup.
It is not Saturday’s top SEC matchup. That would be the Georgia-Mississippi State game in Athens, followed by Florida at Kentucky and Texas A&M vs. Arkansas in Arlington.
All those games are expected to be decided by a touchdown or less. Last I checked, Vanderbilt was an 18½ point underdog.
Even if I were a betting man, I wouldn’t take Vanderbilt and the points, and most Vandy fans would agree with me. After years of watching our team snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, we’re nothing if not realists.
Sure, after we beat No. 19 Kansas State last week for our first victory over a ranked non-conference opponent since the Truman administration, some of our fans started chanting, “We Want Bama!”
Yes, this was dumb.
In their defense, they were probably trying to be ironic. I mean, most fan bases say, “We Want Bama!” because they hope to play for the national championship, which usually involves playing Bama.
Many other fans say this as a joke because their team has no chance of playing Bama – for example, their high school team or community college team.
Or the Cleveland Browns.
But Vanderbilt is already scheduled to play Crimson Tide. So if we have no choice but to play Bama, then we might as well want to play Bama, right? Isn’t that being hopefully optimistic?
Yes. But we don’t have to say it.
During times like these, when Vandy fans feel the need to crow a bit, I feel the need to quote Sun Tzu’s “Art of War”:
“All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.”
If our team is playing Bama and we think we want to play them, we should still act like we don’t want to play them. If we think we could beat them, or at least lose to them by less than 18½ points, we certainly shouldn’t say so out loud.
Instead, we should make everybody in the state of Alabama think we are unable to attack, then we should sneak up on them.
A good way to do this is to point out the fact that in the past four years, Alabama has recruited 85 high players rated four stars or higher. Vanderbilt has recruited five.
One of our few four-star guys, defensive tackle Nifae Lealao, told a reporter this on Saturday: “When you come to our house, we show you how to play some SEC ball. It don’t matter where you’re from, you gonna know what ball we play.”
Then he said… wait for it…
“Alabama, you’re next!”
That noise you hear is Sun Tzu rolling over in his grave.
Or Alabama fans laughing.
Or Alabama players hitting each other harder in practice.
To his credit, Jalen Hurts, the Alabama quarterback, responded this way when a reporter asked what he thought about Lealao’s statement: “Theoretically, we are next on their schedule.”
Lealao himself went to Twitter and posted this: “All I meant is that they’re next to come to our house and play us. #NothingButRespect, but that doesn’t mean we’re gonna back down from the challenge.”
Hush up, big fella.
Show us, don’t tell us.
The more you say, the faster that herd of elephants moves up I-65.