The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

It’s Bowl or Bust for the 2019 Vanderbilt Commodores, according to SEC Nation

Tim Tebow, Marty Smith, Laura Rutledge, Marcus Spears, and the SEC Nation crew offer their insight on a Commodore team that they “absolutely believe” will be bowl-eligible.

Eight months removed from a devastating 45-38 loss to Baylor in the 2018 Texas Bowl, the Vanderbilt Commodores are ready to turn the page on a new chapter.

Today, the 2019 season officially kicks off. Only this time, the expectations are much higher.

Powered by a complete arsenal of offensive weapons in Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Kalija Lipscomb, and Jared Pinkney, the Commodores should be able to hold their own against the best-in-show. The trio, coined “the big three” by the SEC Nation talent, will have a new play-caller under center. But LSU and NFL alumnus Marcus Spears thinks the three seniors have the talent to ease the new quarterback into his starting role.

I mean, look. If you suck at Fortnite, and you’re playing Squads, you want three good players on your team to help you look good.”

Spears chuckled as he referenced the popular video game, but continued to clarify–the starting quarterback won’t “suck,” he’ll just be a better player when surrounded by future NFL draftees.

“To have that confidence that guys can compensate if you make a mistake, or if you throw a bad ball, they can go get it. If you need to resort to a run game, you turn around and you’re handing it off to Ke’Shawn Vaughn. That’s a real good feeling about what you can possibly do and get accomplished. Yeah, it’ll be very comfortable. I don’t want to be a quarterback with dudes that suck around me, so the fact that he has three good ones at very vital positions is a big deal.”

Derek Mason and the Commodores will begin the season playing a nationally televised, primetime game against the Georgia Bulldogs — a task so tough that the Bulldogs are favored by over twenty points. However, if Tim Tebow proved anything in his first national championship run with Florida, his second national championship run, or his miracle NFL Playoff run with the Denver Broncos, it’s that the will to win always prevails.

“Georgia’s a really good team. They’re a team that has a lot of talent and they’re number three in the country for a reason,” Tebow told The Vanderbilt Hustler. “But also for all these players at Vanderbilt, they’ve been on good teams in the past too. They’re in the SEC for a reason and they might not have had the same number of stars when they got recruited, but stars don’t show up on a field. Heart does. You have to say so. Other people have a say in how many stars you had, but you have a say on what happens on the field.”

The SEC Nation crew may not select Vanderbilt to win tonight’s matchup, but Tebow noted that this is anyone’s ballgame. A Commodore win may not be probable, but it’s certainly possible. Marty Smith furthered Tebow’s notion, as he applauded Coach Mason’s efforts to revamp this program since his arrival.

“For me, I think the Vanderbilt program is heading in such a tremendous direction,” said Smith. “I love Derek’s spirit. I love his disposition. I love that he teaches these young men not only about being great at football and growing them in the fundamentals of the game, but life, too. And I know we kind of hear that sometimes, football’s the ultimate game that way. But he has this spirit about him that you just don’t come across very often. You don’t see somebody like that who knows exactly who they are. In this life, we meet all kinds, and that’s a blessing. But you don’t meet very many people who have that level of self-confidence and humility all walking in the same direction. Anytime I’m around Derek, I’m a better man. So I love what he’s doing here, and honestly, I feel like the university is fortunate to have him.”

Smith confidently continued to point out that Vanderbilt appears be a bowl-eligible team once again this year. Only now, it’ll be on the Commodores to take that next step and capture the crown. Similarly, Laura Rutledge labeled Vanderbilt as a bowl-eligible team — one that could take a tremendous stride forward if their offense can produce behind the new quarterback.

“I do think it’s a bowl team for sure,” said Rutledge. “What bowl it is? I don’t know. But I absolutely believe they will be bowl eligible. I think if you look at what Derek Mason has done to continue to generate excitement about this program, to continue to get the best out of his talent that he has here, has been truly remarkable. Like I said, the defensive side has been great and I think some people look at that and say ‘that’s what we always get out of Vandy,’ but I think that’s tough to do against SEC teams. So if they take that next little step even offensively, I think we’re talking about a huge year for them. So yeah, I think they make a bowl game.”

The whole country has eyes on this matchup — the game with the most expensive ticket resale price in week one of college football — but will the Commodores burst onto the scene and upset the Georgia Bulldogs on primetime television? Only time will tell.

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About the Contributor
Simon Gibbs, Former Sports Editor
Simon Gibbs (‘21) is the former Sports Editor for The Vanderbilt Hustler. He has been on staff since the first semester of his freshman year, previously serving as a Staff Writer, Senior Writer and Deputy Sports Editor. Simon is also the host of VU Sports Wired on Vanderbilt Video Productions and The Hustler Sports 30 on VandyRadio. Simon has attended several events as credentialed media, including the 2019 NFL Draft, 2019 College Baseball World Series and the 2019 SEC Tournament. Outside of his Commodore coverage, Simon has had bylines published on and When he's not writing, you can find Simon watching his hometown New York Mets, waiting for that next ring. For tips, comments or concerns, please reach out to: [email protected]    
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