Vanderbilt midseason report

October, 16, 2008
10/16/08
11:30
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Here's all you need to know about Vanderbilt's season to this point: The Commodores (5-1, 3-1 SEC) lost a game last week and are still ranked No. 22 nationally. In their best start since World War II, they sprinted out to five straight wins before falling last weekend at Mississippi State. It's a team that hasn't been particularly good offensively, but has done just about everything else well. The Commodores lead the SEC in sacks and are tied for the lead in interceptions. They've been extremely good in the red zone both offensively and defensively and have continually capitalized on other teams' mistakes. Bobby Johnson and his staff have also done a masterful job of adjusting and putting players in positions to make plays.

Offensive MVP: Offense hasn't been the Commodores' forte this season, even though the offensive line has held up admirably after losing all five starters from a year ago. We'll split the award up and go with quarterback Chris Nickson, who hasn't been as effective after reinjuring his shoulder, and the guy who's replacing him, Mackenzi Adams, the hero in the Auburn win.

Defensive MVP: Linebacker Patrick Benoist has had a big first half, and senior safety Reshard Langford is the glue on this defense. But without the skills of cornerback D.J. Moore, who's one of the best multipurpose players in the country, this defense wouldn't be nearly as good. Moore has two interceptions and leads the team in passes defended and passes broken up.

What's next: The goal is clearly to get to a bowl game for the first time since 1982. That's also the last time the Commodores didn't have a losing season. Hanging around in the East race will likely entail winning at Georgia this Saturday. Before you laugh, the Commodores won there two years ago and had the Bulldogs beat last year before fumbling late. The offensive limitations will make it difficult, but look for the Commodores to find at least two more wins and go bowling for the first time in a quarter century. The trick then might be holding onto Johnson, who's fast becoming a hot commodity on the coaching circuit.

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