Monday, May 19, 2014
Schedule analysis: Vanderbilt
By Chris Low
Who has the trickiest schedule in the SEC for 2014? How about the easiest, and who has the toughest stretch?
We answer all those questions and more with our annual schedule analysis and will examine the schedules of all 14 teams over the next few weeks. We'll kick it off with Vanderbilt and go in reverse alphabetical order:
Nonconference opponents (with 2013 record)
Aug. 28: Temple (2-10)
Sept. 13: Massachusetts (1-11)
Oct. 11: Charleston Southern (10-3)
Nov. 1: Old Dominion (8-4)
SEC home games
Sept. 6: Ole Miss (LP Field in Nashville)
Sept. 20: South Carolina
Nov. 8: Florida
Nov. 29: Tennessee
SEC road games
Sept. 27: at Kentucky
Oct. 4: at Georgia
Oct. 25: at Missouri
Nov. 22: at Mississippi State
Gut-check time: The trip to Georgia on Oct. 4 is ominous for a couple of reasons. For starters, the Dawgs should again be plenty explosive on offense in 2014, and it's never much fun going into Sanford Stadium. The last time Vanderbilt played in Athens, the Commodores were decimated 48-3 two years ago, and you can bet that Georgia hasn't forgotten the bitter 31-27 setback it suffered in Nashville a year ago. It's also the second leg of back-to-back SEC games on the road for the Commodores and will be their sixth straight game in as many weeks without a bye.
Vanderbilt has raised its victory sign nine consecutive times in November.
Trap game: The first game of that SEC road trip before going to Georgia has danger written all over it. Kentucky should be much improved in Year No. 2 under Mark Stoops, and the game (Sept. 27) is sandwiched between a home game with South Carolina and the road date at Georgia. The Wildcats also will be looking to break a three-game losing streak against the Commodores.
Snoozer: The truth is there are a few. We'll call it a tie between Massachusetts' visit on Sept. 13 and FCS foe Charleston Southern's visit on Oct. 11. Temple isn't a ready-made sellout, either, but at least that game is the season opener on a Thursday and will be televised by the SEC Network.
Telltale stretch: The three-game stretch starting with the home game against South Carolina in September is key, but the one that will shape the Commodores' season is the three-game stretch to close it -- home against Florida, at Mississippi State and then home against Tennessee on the final weekend. There's a bye between the Florida and Mississippi State games, and Vanderbilt needs to find a way to continue its mastery of November.
Final analysis: Derek Mason steps in for James Franklin and faces some lofty expectations after the Commodores won nine games each of the past two seasons. Franklin made a living beating the teams he should beat on his schedule, but he also won two in a row over Tennessee and beat both Florida and Georgia last season. Go back and check the last time that happened at Vanderbilt. Similar to his predecessor, Mason will need to take advantage of a cushy nonconference schedule, the cushiest in the league. Really, the Commodores should be 4-0 to start the season. Then it comes down to finding at least two conference wins to make it four straight bowl appearances. The Commodores have won nine straight games in the month of November going back to the end of the 2011 season. If they can find at least two more wins in November this season, go ahead and punch their postseason ticket.