NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A sold-out stadium with two ranked teams playing a big SEC game. Can this really be Vanderbilt?
Yep, these Commodores are going big-time.
No. 19 Vanderbilt tries to go 5-0 for the first time since World War II when it faces No. 13 Auburn on Saturday.
``They'll be sky-high,'' Tigers coach Tommy Tuberville said of the Commodores (4-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference).
``They've had a week off. This is a huge game for them. They're ranked for the first time in the Top 25 in I don't know how many years. They surely deserve it. They played well last year at times, and they just were snake bit. It looks like this could be a great year for them.''
anderbilt was last in the AP Top 25.
This is a campus best known for academics, where sellouts resulted from the visiting team filling the SEC's smallest stadium with Tennessee orange or Alabama crimson in an atmosphere opponents compared to what they saw in high school. Vandy black and gold would cluster in small pockets for comfort over the past 25 straight losing seasons.
The last time the Commodores were ranked, they lost to Tulane in their very next game.
Coach Bobby Johnson has been out on campus talking up the Auburn game, and he has felt a buzz of excitement usually saved for Vandy's basketball or baseball teams at the SEC's smallest and only private school, even among freshmen he called ``bookworm kind of guys.''
``I'm very pleased with what we're doing. I just want to do more of it and not worry about what we've done,'' Johnson said.
The weight of all the bad history at Vanderbilt isn't easy to ignore.
The Commodores are 4-0 for only the fourth time since 1950. They last went 5-0 in 1943 when they played only five games in a schedule that featured a military camp. They are trying to win a third straight SEC game for the first time since 1982, something they've done just seven times as a charter member of this league.
C victories in with those four probably gives it a little bit more validity.''
Trying to improve to 5-0 with Auburn (4-1, 2-1) as the opponent doesn't help either. The Tigers have dominated this series in winning the past 13 games by an average of 25 points going back to the 1955 Gator Bowl. Johnson joked that he doesn't expect to see Bo Jackson or Pat Sullivan on the field Saturday for the Tigers.
The Tigers thumped Vandy last season 35-7 by scoring on four of the first five possessions, and on paper, this shouldn't be much of a game.
Auburn is outscoring opponents 62-9 in the first half with a defense that has allowed only one touchdown rushing so far. The Tigers rank 11th nationally allowing only 246 yards total offense.
Vanderbilt is last in the SEC in both total offense (282.8 yards) and total defense (364.3 yards). But the Commodores are tied with Pittsburgh for fewest penalties in the nation, are one of only three teams that have not been intercepted and lead in the SEC in both interceptions (10) and sacks (11).
Quarterback Chris Nickson leads Vandy with five rushing TDs, and the Alabama native has thrown for three more in helping Vandy outscore opponents 51-10 in the second half.
Tuberville said Johnson's teams are always sound.
``It's like anything else. Players are going to win games for you. Their coaches have done a good job getting their guys out there and getting them coached up, but the players have worked hard from what I've seen,'' he said.
And Johnson has the tape of last year's game ready to show his 'Dores if he spots anyone getting overconfident after a case of cockiness led to their ugly loss at Auburn last year.
``We know this time we can't be that way,'' Vandy receiver Sean Walker said. ``We've got a lot of stuff riding on us right now. We can't let all that attention get to us.''

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