Since his arrival in Nashville, James Franklin has worked wonders with the Vanderbilt Commodores. Franklin has taken a program that was perennially in the Southeastern Conference cellar and turned it into a program that has now played in back-to-back bowl games.
But with success comes expectations, and Vanderbilt is facing those this season. The 2013 campaign will be an important one for the Commodores, because there are a couple of elements that would suggest they might slip back in the pack in this season’s SEC race.
First and foremost are those expectations. For years, SEC opponents would see Vanderbilt on the schedule and assume that they basically had the week off. And, for the most part, they were right.
However, Franklin has proven that his team can contend with just about anybody in the mighty SEC. That means that these opponents will no longer overlook Vanderbilt. So games where the Commodores might have slipped up and beaten an opponent in the past will no longer have that feel, because the opposing team must now respect Vandy.
The other element working against the Commodores in 2013 is the loss of a couple of key offensive weapons. Starting quarterback Jordan Rodgers and running back Zac Stacy must both be replaced this season. Rodgers was solid at quarterback and was a good leader for the team, while Stacy is one of the best backs to ever wear the Black and Gold. Replacing these two players will be tough.
With expectations mounting and with a couple of key elements gone, it would make perfect sense if the Commodores retreated a bit in the 2013 SEC standings. But Franklin is building a program at Vanderbilt, and he will do all he can to make sure that doesn’t happen. That said, if it is going to happen, this seems like the perfect time.