The Vanderbilt Commodores enter the Derek Mason Era in 2014 after the departure of James Franklin. The standard set by Franklin will be tough for Mason to maintain. Franklin took Vandy to three straight bowl games and a run of unprecedented success during his time in Nashville.
If Vanderbilt is to make it to a fourth straight bowl game, it must navigate a tricky schedule. Vandy opens against the Temple Owls, at home, before visiting the Ole Miss Rebels. After a home game against UMass, Vandy welcomes one of the favorites in the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division, the South Carolina Gamecocks.
After a week off, Vandy makes the trip west to face the Missouri Tigers. The Commodores then host Old Dominion in a non-conference matchup.
Rounding out the 2014 slate is a home contest against Vandy’s intrastate rivals, the Tennessee Volunteers.
Vandy appears to have likely wins against Temple, UMass, Charleston Southern, Old Dominion and Kentucky, although that game is on the road against what should be an improved Wildcats squad. However, if Vandy can win those five games, they would only need one other win to become bowl eligible.
The ‘Dores would need to beat either Florida or Tennessee at home, or Mississippi State on the road to get to six wins. But, don’t count out some of the other opponents, because Vandy has pulled an upset in each of the last three seasons.
Mason would love to continue what Franklin started, and the schedule seems to be in his favor.
Tim Letcher is a contributing writer for RantSports.com and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter @TimLetcher , on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.