After winning nine games last season, many have questioned whether the Vanderbilt Commodores can do it again this year. While it will lose some key players this fall, another nine-win campaign could be in the cards for James Franklin‘s squad this season, thanks to a relatively favorable schedule.
A closer look at the 2013 docket will bear this out.
The Commodores should breeze through the non-conference portion of their schedule with very little difficulty. The Austin Peay Governors and Massachusetts Minutemen simply don’t have the talent to stop Vanderbilt on either side of the ball. Similarly, the UAB Blazers and Wake Forest Demon Deacons are still in the process of rebuilding, and are probably a year away from competing for a bowl berth.
With four easy victories in non-league play, the Commodores need to finish no worse than 4-4 in the SEC to have a shot at posting nine wins for just the second time since 1915.
Believe it or not, the schedule sets up nicely for them to do so.
Vanderbilt will definitely pick up convincing wins over the Tennessee Volunteers and Kentucky Wildcats. After all, the Commodores pummeled these opponents by a combined score of 81-18 last season. Unless the Vols and Wildcats quickly adapt to the new schemes they’ll be running this fall, it’s tough to see either of them giving Vandy much of a game.
Although the other six conference tilts won’t be nearly as easy, the Commodores will have their chances to win all of them. Yes, the Ole Miss Rebels and Missouri Tigers will be much better this year, but Vandy has the advantage of playing each of them within in the friendly confines of Dudley Field.
More importantly, the Commodores have an open week before facing the Georgia Bulldogs and Florida Gators. With a glorified scrimmage versus Austin Peay right before to Vandy’s epic showdown against the South Carolina Gamecocks, the ‘Dores have the equivalent of two weeks to get ready for the three of the teams that beat them in SEC play a year ago. Sure, the extra preparation will not guarantee a victory, but it does give them the opportunity to install a few new wrinkles before the three biggest games of the year.
That leaves only a game with the Texas A&M Aggies in College Station to worry about. Although Johnny Football and company will come into the game as the favorite, it’s worth noting that both of the Aggies’ losses were at Kyle Field last season.
In other words, there’s at least one reason for Vanderbilt fans to believe that the team is capable of winning each game on the schedule this year.
Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen. While the squad has improved by leaps and bounds under Franklin’s watch, it’s still slightly behind the upper echelon programs of the SEC East.
However, the fact that the Commodores can realistically expect to win every game on their schedule speaks volumes about how far the program has come in the past two years. Assuming the ‘Dores pull off an upset or two, they would become the first team in school history to win 10 games.