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.

SEC Power Rankings Week Five in terms of Campus Dining

As a full slate of conference play looms on Saturday, The Hustler compares the 14 SEC teams to different food options on Vanderbilt’s campus.
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Chloe Pryor
AJ Swann drops back in the pocket as he looks downfield against Kentucky on Sept. 23, 2023 (Hustler Multimedia/Chloe Pryor)

Now four weeks into the college football season, things are beginning to take shape in the SEC. As conference play approaches – all matchups will be in-conference in Week Five – the Vanderbilt Hustler approached its power rankings from a different lens. 

Some teams have impressed, some teams have disappointed, and some teams have – for the most part – stuck the course. Similar things can be said about Vanderbilt University’s campus dining: Now that students have been back for over a month, it’s clear which places present the best ‘grub’ and which places (looking at you, Zeppos) aren’t even worth the walk from Branscomb.

This is a new, themed edition of SEC Power Rankings: The Hustler sat down and ranked not just the 14 football teams but also the 14 dining venues on campus, connecting them and drawing similarities. 

1. Georgia (4-0)

Vanderbilt Dining Equivalent: 2301

This one’s a no-brainer, as it has been for the better part of over two years; Georgia remains atop the Hustler’s weekly rankings. The Bulldogs have lost one game since the beginning of the 2021 season and flashed dominant performance after dominant performance en route to back-to-back national championships. Head coach Kirby Smart and co. are the epitome of consistency, as is 2301. While the wait may take more time out of your day than you’d like, 2301 allows you to build a healthy bowl with your choice of rice, vegetables, protein and sauce. It’s delicious, it’s fresh, and the fact that it’s Allergen-Free means that it can be enjoyed by every single member of Vanderbilt’s campus, so long as they are willing to wait. Whether you love them or hate them, the No. 1-ranked Bulldogs play a highly-efficient brand of football that everyone can watch and enjoy.

2. Alabama (3-1)

Vanderbilt Dining Equivalent: Rothschild College

The only process smoother than the fast and simple choice of dining at Rothschild College, is that of the Crimson Tide’s ability to show the world why Lane Kiffin is on his sixth head coaching job. Last Saturday’s victory over Ole Miss brought Alabama back from the frontier of scrutiny it had begun to occupy after its loss to Texas and near-disastrous game against SFU. After dominating college football for the better part of the last 15 years, the Saban-led Tide have begun to fall off, much like Rothschild’s recent lack of dessert and questionable consistency with hot food. Both the Alabama football program and Rothschild name have been staples of superiority in their respective fields. Only now, both their reputations are now at stake.

3. Ole Miss (3-1)

Vanderbilt Dining Equivalent: Red Bicycle Coffee

When the phrase aesthetically pleasing comes to mind, one would associate it with the quaint atmosphere of Red Bicycle Coffee, something almost as easy on the eyes are the clean-cut, pastel Ole Miss jerseys. Red Bicycle has begun the academic year with a strong presence, satisfying students from all across campus with a variety of items. The Ole Miss Rebels have followed suit, providing entertaining match-ups to their large student body. The great taste of Red Bicycle’s iced matcha is consistently on point this school year, much like the Rebels football program this season, prior to their game against Alabama. Both Red Bicycle and Ole Miss are southern classics that offer a solid product and look good while doing it.

4. LSU (3-1)

Vanderbilt Dining Equivalent: The Pub at Overcup Oak

Another classic dining experience at Vanderbilt University – not that we were around for it. The Pub was a force to be reckoned with in the top floor of Sarratt Student Center before the COVID-19 pandemic effectively destroyed it. Sounds a lot like LSU, doesn’t it? A brilliant season before the departure of players like Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson left and the pandemic hit, leaving the program in a rough state. The Tigers battled back from the depths of despair and are now once again a top team within the conference, led by new stars quarterback Jayden Daniels and wide receivers Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr.. Things are looking up in Baton Rouge, and the Pub at Overcup Oak.

5. Florida (3-1)

Vanderbilt Dining Equivalent: Rand Dining Hall

Much like the packed Rand Dining Hall, you will never see the Swamp not buzzing with fans – students and local residents alike. The electric atmosphere whenever Florida runs the ball into the end zone mirrors the atmosphere when there are cookies available in the Rand bakery. Whether their reputations are proof of merit or just a byproduct of name and hype, it is impossible to deny both UF and Rand have established themselves as hotspot locations. The Gators’ dominant win over Tennessee has only helped to propel Florida into the national spotlight, just as Rand’s continuous production of quality food has cemented the dining hall as a top spot on campus.

6. Tennessee (3-1)

Vanderbilt Dining Equivalent: E. Bronson Ingram College

For the record, since we collaborated on these rankings, EBI is far lower than I wanted it to be, as I think its the most underrated dining hall on Vanderbilt’s campus. I feel similarly about Tennessee. Head coach Josh Heupel possesses a well-rounded roster with an offense capable of bailing them out of bad situations. The same can be said about EBI, as even if all the other options stink, the pho is always around as a fail-safe. The Volunteers’ – completely dissimilar from last year’s offense with Hendon Hooker at the helm – rushing attack has been one of the best in all of CFB. They average 229.5 rush yards per game, the most in the SEC, while allowing just 17.3 points to opposing offenses. 

7. Missouri (4-0)

Vanderbilt Dining Equivalent: Wasabi 

Both Missouri and Wasabi made the top ten in this ranking, but is this because what they have been producing is good, or because what they are compared to is just that bad. Missouri has been facing underwhelming competition that almost makes it impossible for them to do poorly, and while Wasabi is average at best, they have no other Sushi as competition, and students will take mediocrity over having nothing. 

8. Texas A&M (3-1)

Vanderbilt Dining Equivalent: Suzie’s Café

Suzie’s Cafe is known for its great coffee and average food. Standing at number eight, Texas A&M is known for their average playing and winning against below average teams. However, much like the Suzie’s Cafe workers can hold their own against the huge lunch time influx of students, Texas A&M did a pretty good job of holding up against the Miami Hurricanes who are having a very successful season so far at 4-0.

9. Kentucky (4-0)

Vanderbilt Dining Equivalent: Local Java at Alumni Café

Local Java has a lot of things to like, there’s no doubt about that. The sandwiches are excellent and the fact that it is on the meal plan certainly bolsters its rating. Still, having to spend meal money on the majority of the lattés and other fancy drinks is a bit unfortunate. Kentucky boasts a top defense in the conference, with the fewest rushing yards allowed at 77.5 per game. Not to mention the Wildcats are one of just three undefeated SEC teams. At the same time, the offense is borderline inept with a quarterback prone to turnovers in Devin Leary and a running game that has struggled to find traction. It’ll be interesting to see how Kentucky fares as the weight of a challenging conference schedule – No. 22 Florida, No. 1 Georgia, No. 23 Missouri and No. 21 Tennessee represent its four next games – looms.

10. South Carolina (2-2)

Vanderbilt Dining Equivalent: Munchie Mart

It is hard to form a concrete opinion on Vanderbilt’s Munchie Marts. What combination of items warrants a meal swipe, why must one use meal money on a Celsius, and why do the different locations carry different items are all questions students ask themselves when visiting the Munchie Marts. South Carolina’s football program evokes the same feelings in its fans, as it has proved difficult to gauge the team’s true level of aptitude. One game Spencer Rattler will look like a Heisman front runner, as he did against Mississippi State, the other he’ll show flashes of his Oklahoma self and charge you a full meal swipe for a Chobani Yogurt Drink and a Clif Bar. However, keeping Georgia to 24 points is an admirable feat, just as is the Muchie Mart’s ability to keep the Vanderbilt student body satisfied on a daily basis.

11. Mississippi State (2-2)

Vanderbilt Dining Equivalent: Commons Dining Center

The only thing that fumbles more than Mississippi State’s football team is the Commons Dining Center’s attempt at burgers. Both the team and dining hall leave people with a taste of disappointment. Much like many people go to Commons out of necessity, many football fans continue to watch Mississippi State out of hope that they will finally live up to the SEC standards. Commons does have a leg up on the Bulldogs, however, since the lovely staff are far more tolerable than Jimbo Fisher ever was or will be.

12. Arkansas (2-2)

Vanderbilt Dining Equivalent: Kissam Kitchen

You really want to root for Kissam. It gets some points for being one of the few spots on campus with Gluten-Free accommodations, and its lunches in particular are pretty fresh as it’s just rice, veggies and meat. When it boils down to it, though, it’s really just 2301 if the food wasn’t cooked properly. Enter Arkansas: with a quarterback like KJ Jefferson leading the offense, things should theoretically come easy. Yet, the Razorbacks are off to a dismal 2-2 start with losses to BYU (at home, to make matters worse) and LSU. It’s safe to assume that missing All-SEC caliber rusher Raheim Sanders has taken a toll on offensive production. Kissam tends to take a dip when the Acai (consistently) runs out, anyways… 

13. Auburn (3-1)

Vanderbilt Dining Equivalent: Grins Vegetarian Café

No hate to Grins, here – I actually thoroughly enjoy the food that the café serves. I’m not a frequenter, seeing as the food doesn’t really fill me up due to a general lack of protein, but it’s good for what it does. I just think it also loses points for having nowhere to sit – the dining room in the back is a pretty depressing setup. Auburn might be 3-1, and it might boast a potent rushing attack, but it’s also hiding a terrible dining hall in the back. The Tigers lost their only real game of the season against Texas A&M last week, as the game marked the second time in just four games that quarterback Payton Thorne has been held under 100 passing yards. 

14. Vanderbilt (2-3)

Vanderbilt Dining Equivalent: Nicholas S. Zeppos College 

This was an unfortunately easy comparison; Zeppos is the worst dining hall on this campus, and it isn’t close. Vanderbilt is the worst team in the SEC, and one could argue that it also isn’t close – though perhaps the Commodores matchup with Auburn on Nov. 4 will offer further insight. The Commodores have now lost three straight games (Wake Forest, UNLV and Kentucky) and stare at a potential fourth with No. 23 Missouri heading to town. Quarterback AJ Swann and offensive coordinator Joey Lynch will need to right the ship and show flashes of potential if Vanderbilt wants any chance at making a bowl game this season.

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About the Contributors
Aiden Rutman, Senior Staff Writer
Aiden Rutman (‘25) is a student in Peabody College majoring in human and organizational development and minoring in communication studies. He formerly produced The Hustler’s sports podcast, Live from West End. In addition to writing and podcasting, Aiden is an avid New York sports fan, and he loves playing sports, spending time outdoors and trying new foods. You can reach him at [email protected].
Jillian Oresky, Staff Writer
Jillian Oresky (‘27) is from Long Island, New York, and studies cognitive studies in Peabody college. When not writing for the Hustler, you can find her going on runs in Centennial Park. You can reach her at [email protected].
Chloe Pryor, Staff Writer and Photographer
Chloe Pryor (‘26) is from Fort Smith, Ark., and is double majoring in psychology and communications studies. When not writing for The Hustler, you can fund her reading, drawing or running late for class. You can reach her at [email protected].
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