Prior to the arrival of head coach James Franklin, the Vanderbilt Commodores were almost always trying to stay out of last place in the Southeastern Conference. Vanderbilt has still never won an SEC championship, but the Commodores have at least become competitive under Franklin.
In his first season, Franklin led Vandy to a 6-7 record, including a 31-24 loss to the Cincinnati Bearcats in the Liberty Bowl.
Last season, the Commodores went 9-4, tying the school record for wins in a season. Vandy beat the N.C. State Wolfpack 38-24 in the Music City Bowl.
Franklin’s program seems to be on the rise, but the Commodores now face something that the program has rarely faced in the past – expectations.
That might be a little unfair for this particular Vanderbilt team, as Franklin will be replacing his starting quarterback (Jordan Rodgers) and running back (Zac Stacy) among others. However, with winning comes expectations, and that’s what awaits the 2013 campaign for Vandy.
It will be tough for Vanderbilt to improve on what they have done over the last two seasons. Playing in the SEC East, the ‘Dores must face the Florida Gators, the Georgia Bulldogs and the South Carolina Gamecocks each season. All of those opponents figure to spend time in the nation’s Top 10 this season.
Add to that the fact that the Tennessee Volunteers appear to be on the road back to relevancy, and Vandy’s road becomes that much tougher. Tennessee’s rise will also make it tougher on Franklin in the recruiting wars.
Franklin has done a tremendous job building a program that had only four bowl appearances in its history before his arrival into a respectable opponent in the SEC. However, that also means that teams will no longer overlook the ‘Dores, and that they will get the best shot of every opponent.
While Franklin has done big things in Nashville, he and the Commodores may have done as much as they can do. But don’t count Franklin out when it comes to exceeding expectations.