Welcome to the second installment of TRASH TALK. Feel free to join along in the comments section, but remember this is all in good fun.
The Kansas State Wildcats face the Vanderbilt Commodores tonight in Nashville, and by all accounts the EMAW faithful have turned out in droves to repurpose Vanderbilt Stadium into the NashBill for a night. That’s something we couldn’t accomplish without Vanderbilt fans’ complacency in the face of a ranked non-conference opponent visiting for the first time since Georgia Tech traveled to Nashville in 2009.
Yes, Vanderbilt really is the black and gold sheep of the SEC in many ways, none more obvious than football apathy. They have the smallest stadium in the conference and fourth-smallest among Power 5 schools (only Duke, Wake Forest, and Washington State play in smaller stadiums), and they don’t even come close to filling it on a regular basis.
Last year, with a bowl berth on the line and their biggest rival, No. 24 Tennessee, coming to town for the regular-season finale, they still couldn’t reach 40,000 attendance. I’m honestly kind of surprised Tennessee fans didn’t fill up the stadium.
But that’s Vanderbilt football. Even when the stakes are high, their fans don’t really care, and neither do their “rivals.” They’re the Northwestern, the Wake Forest of the SEC. But can you blame them? They’re historically mediocre. They have a .496 winning percentage all time but have only managed to make eight bowl games. K-State spent eons being terrible (.452 winning percentage even with a quarter-century of Snyder) but still has gone to 20 bowl games. Since World War I they’ve had two nine-win seasons. They don’t have a winning record against any team in the SEC, and are only .500 against Auburn.
So this will effectively be K-State’s first regular season non-conference neutral site game since facing Cal at Arrowhead Stadium in 2003, and even that was only technically a neutral site.
Let’s wrap this up by looking at a couple of historic figures tied to Vanderbilt. The first is the source of the school’s name and the mascot for its sports teams. “Commodore” Cornelius Vanderbilt wasn’t actually a commodore — a former rank of the U.S. Navy. He didn’t even hold the rank as an honorary thing, like Col. Sanders. He was just nicknamed “Commodore” because he owned a bunch of ships. And he never set foot in Nashville.
The other historic Vanderbilt figure worth mentioning is Jay Cutler, who has more starts at quarterback than anyone else in Commodores history. He racked up an impressive 11-35 record (5-27 SEC). Only four Commodores have been drafted higher than Cutler in the NFL, and none since this writer has been alive. Cutler is famed for his (ineffective) leadership of both the Denver Broncos and Chicago Bears, and now he has come out of retirement to (ineffectively) lead the Miami Dolphins. He, along with wife Kristin Cavallari, are also notable anti-vaxxers, deciding that the risk of a vaccine giving their children autism (it won’t, the study suggesting the link was fraudulent) is worse than the risk of their children getting any number of preventable, possibly fatal diseases.