At the moment, the SEC looks like it is going to be just as tough as always in the 2013 season with a bevy of teams that have the capability to win at least 10 or 11 games. One program that was surprisingly good in 2012 will look to try and rise out of the middle of the SEC and into the top tier: the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Vandy went 9-4 in 2012 and 5-3 in the SEC. That isn’t too shabby at a glance, but when you delve into the numbers, a couple troubling things pop out. The Commodores didn’t beat a single team that finished with a better record than them. In fact the best record held by an opponent that the defeated during the 2012 season was 7-6, which was the final tally for both the Ole Miss Rebels and Vandy’s bowl opponent, the North Carolina State Wolfpack.
Their four losses came against the Northwestern Wildcats (10-3), South Carolina Gamecocks (11-2), Florida Gators (11-2) and Georgia Bulldogs (12-2). Those are respectable teams to lose to, but Vanderbilt needs to step it up against tough opponents in 2013 if they want to be looked at as a top of the line team.
Talent wise, the ‘Dores don’t lose too much going into 2013. Their biggest loss is undoubtedly QB Jordan Rogers, who accounted for 2,539 yards in the air and 15 TDs. Vandy has plenty of options to replace Rogers with, though. Former Wyoming Cowboys transfer Austyn Carte-Samuels will be a senior and should be considered the favorite to start, but Luke Colbert is another option for Vanderbilt under center. Then there are the incoming recruits.
Vanderbilt is bringing in two 4-star dual-threat QB recruits for 2013: 6’4” 200 pound Chad Kanoff, and 6’3” 190 pound Johnathan McCrary. Given that Carte-Samuels didn’t take very many snaps last year, the QB competition should be fairly open in Nashville and one of the new comers could snag the job if they play well in the spring.
As far as offense weapons go, Vanderbilt is returning both of its top two wide receivers in Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd. Boyd made a crazy good one-handed TD grab in the Music City Bowl and Vandy will need good hands for their inexperienced QBs to throw to.
The Commodores lose their top running back, Zac Stacy, but their number two man Brian Kimbrow will only be a sophomore in 2013. WR Wesley Tate is also a threat in the running game for Vanderbilt.
Their biggest losses on defense will be DE Johnell Thomas, DB Trey Wilson and LB Archibald Barnes. Overall though, the Vandy D should be stout in 2013, and if they can build on last year’s impressive performance, the Commodores won’t have to worry about too many points being scored on them. That’ll be a big help considering the way Vandy’s schedule looks.
There is no such thing as an easy schedule in the SEC and that is certainly true of Vanderbilt’s 2013 schedule. The Commodores only have five road games, but four of them are ball-busters as they have to travel to face South Carolina, Florida, the Texas A&M Aggies and in-state rival Tennessee Volunteers. Vandy gets Georgia at home, which will help out against what promises to be a solid Bulldog team. The best news is that Vanderbilt won’t have to face either the Alabama Crimson Tide or the LSU Tigers. You’ve got to be thankful for the little things.
Vanderbilt has the potential to be a legitimate dark horse team in the SEC, and especially in the conference’s East division. I count eight games that will be very winnable for the Commodores in 2013, but if they really want to break out, they have to start upsetting the big boys.
Even though it is a road game, I think Vandy can handle South Carolina next year. Of the other three really tough games (at Texas A&M, at Florida and Georgia at home) I honestly think the ‘Dores have the best chance of beating Georgia at home. Winning in the Swamp and at Kyle Field are tall orders, even though I think the Aggies will fall off some in 2013. Vanderbilt must win at least two of those four big games for them to be able to consider 2013 a success.
If Vanderbilt can go 10-2 with a 6-2 SEC record next season, they could be in contention to win the SEC East and earn a trip to the SEC Championship Game. Don’t sleep on the Commodores in 2013.