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story.lead_photo.caption The Vanderbilt anchor decorates a helmet in the first half of an NCAA college football game between Vanderbilt and Nevada Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Several years ago, at the invite of Charles Cella, your trusty scribe served on a scholarship committee at Vanderbilt.

The Fred Russell-Grantland Rice scholarship was for those interested in sports reporting, although to be transparent Vandy doesn't offer a journalism degree despite Dan Wolken, USA Today, and Skip Bayless, FS1, coming from that school.

The scholarship is named after two of the greatest sports writers ever, and it made a dent in the $70,140 cost for one year.

Being on that committee provided insight into the academic giant of the SEC. Nothing is easy there. To be one of the 12 percent of applicants admitted to Vanderbilt, you need a 3.8 GPA and either a 34 on your ACT (out of 36) or 1,530 on the SAT (1,600 max).

Yours truly usually had a headache from the moment we stepped on to campus until we left. It was like altitude sickness. Guess it was IQ sickness.

The point is Vanderbilt is truly committed to academics. U.S. News & World Report ranked the top 315 academic institutions in America, and Vanderbilt was No. 14.

The next best from the SEC was Florida at 35, Georgia 46 and Texas A&M at 66. The other SEC schools were outside the top 100, although all but one was in the top 50 percent. The University of Arkansas was tied for 152nd with Ole Miss. The one school that didn't make the top 50 percent was surprising because Mississippi State has an outstanding engineering program.

But Vandy doesn't have a lot of balance between academics and athletics, although the baseball program is very good and basketball appears to be on the upswing.

Football actually does well considering the facilities appear to have been updated when John F. Kennedy was an altar boy.

The Commodores have an all-time SEC record of 139-413-17 (.259 winning percentage). Since 1983, they have had three overall winning seasons -- one under Bobby Johnson in 2008, and two under James Franklin in 2012 and 2013. Franklin leaped to Penn State as fast as he could.

His replacement was the very likable Derek Mason, who has been close to victory a few times only to see the jaws of defeat clamp down hard.

The Commodores have done very well in nonconference games for Mason with a 15-5 record. The dreaded SEC is different, as he stands at 6-36. Like the Razorbacks, the Commodores are looking for their first SEC win this season on Saturday.

One of these teams stands to get the label of worst team in the league.

The Commodores are favored by 1½ points with the Las Vegas oddsmakers, probably because they lost to No. 3 Notre Dame 22-17 and No. 12 Kentucky 14-7. Plus, top running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn, who averages 6.9 yards per carry, returns after missing last week with an injury.

Arkansas gets Ty Storey back, and he was getting better with each game until a concussion against Ole Miss sidelined him last week.

Vandy has a balanced offensive attack that is led by a veteran offensive line. The defense is pretty good, too.

The Commodores don't need to get rid of Mason. In fact, after standing up to Florida's Dan Mullen in a heated exchange Oct. 13, he should probably get a raise and contract extension.

Attendance is only 26,000 per game, but that may have as much to do with the antiquated football stadium that makes recruiting difficult. Fans are begging for a stadium update.

The good news for the Razorbacks is the game will be played in Reynolds Razorback Stadium, and not in a classroom where Vanderbilt is the pride of the SEC.

Sports on 10/25/2018

Print Headline: Beating Vandy usually academic in SEC

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