Vanderbilt Commodores Face Crucial Opener Against Ole Miss Rebels

Don McPeak, USA TODAY SPORTS

The Vanderbilt Commodores, fresh off back-to-back bowl appearances, hope to build on the program’s momentum this season beginning with Thursday night’s Southeastern Conference matchup against the Ole Miss Rebels in Nashville.

Vandy had one of its best seasons ever in 2013, winning nine games, including a Music City Bowl win over the N.C. State Wolfpack. The Commodores were also 5-3 in the SEC, showing that they are no longer the Commodores of years past. Head coach James Franklin has taken a program that was at, or near, the bottom of the SEC every year and turned them into a legitimate threat each week.

In 2013, Vanderbilt must replace some key players if the ‘Dores are to continue their winning ways. Gone are quarterback Jordan Rodgers and running back Zac Stacy, two key cogs in the offense last season.

Austyn Carta-Samuels will be the starting quarterback this season. Carta-Samuels was a starter for Wyoming before coming to Nashville.

Vandy’s opponent on Thursday night, Ole Miss, has seen the Vanderbilt program’s ascent right before their eyes. The Commodores have beaten the Rebels the last two seasons, including last year’s thriller in Oxford where Rodgers hit Chris Boyd with a 26-yard touchdown pass with less than a minute remaining.

If Vanderbilt is to continue its rise in the SEC, this is a crucial year. It starts with Thursday’s nationally-televised game against Ole Miss, which could be a springboard to another banner season in Nashville. If the ‘Dores are unable to answer the bell against an improving Ole Miss team, it will be interesting to see how the season unfolds.

Tim Letcher is a contributing writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @TimLetcher , on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

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