It’s probably not accurate to say that Vanderbilt has every reason to feel confident when they face Army on Saturday.
There are, however, two clear-cut reasons for optimism — Western Carolina and Rice.
Whatever struggles the Commodores (2-3) have faced (particularly on offense) in their first three conference games, they have been similarly sound in winning their only two non-conference contests thus far. They dominated Western Carolina, a Football Championship Subdivision program, in their opener and two weeks ago they pulled away from Rice in the second half on the road.
“(Army) is just another team and we have to play every team the same,” left tackle Thomas Welch said. “Every team that we play is going to be a good team because …in college football every team can lose at any moment. You can’t go in too confident with any team or under-confident with any team.
“We’ve won against non-conference so far. We just have to win this game.”
Army (2-3) is the third of four non-conference opponents VU will face this season.
The Black Knights have faced a Big 12 team (Iowa State) and an ACC school (Duke) already this season. They have not, however, matched up against an SEC opponent since 1996, when it fell to Auburn in the Independence Bowl.
“We don't know how we are quite going to match up physically,” Army coach Rich Ellerson said. “We just don't have that frame of reference. We've been on the field with good people, so we're not going to freak out because they are from the SEC. We know it's going to be hard, but that's not new.”
Vanderbilt has outgained the opposition 1,104-397 and has racked up 56 first downs to the other teams’ 18 in its two non-conference games. It has scored a touchdown in seven of the eight quarters of those contests and at no time was it behind.
Conversely, the Commodores have not let at any point in any of their three conference contests – losses to LSU, Mississippi State and Ole Miss.
“I just feel like whenever we step on the field …we need to have great respect for our opponents,” VU safety Joel Caldwell said. “Army’s a great team so, just going in there I feel like we need to get what we need to do in practice and take it on the field on Saturday.”
Army has lost its last two contests, the most recent a one-point defeat at home to Tulane last Saturday.
“They are either winning games or are playing in close games so they are playing with a lot of confidence right now,” coach Bobby Johnson said. “We're going to have our work cut out for us and we don't have a lot of time to practice for (the) different kinds of schemes that they will show us.”
Still, they do have reason — make that two reasons — to think their preparation will pay off in a victory.
The game is scheduled to begin 11 a.m. (CDT) and will be broadcast on CBS College Sports Network, which is available on DirecTV (Ch. 613) and Dish Network (Ch. 152).
Comcast does not offer CBS College Sports Network.
CBS College Sports also offers an online pay-per-view option for $14.95.