After coming off of a tough season with no wins in the SEC, the Vanderbilt Commodores will look to bounce back and improve even if it means no post-season again this year.
Derek Mason is now taking over as the defensive coordinator, and I think that will help the Commodores, but it will take some time. Last season, the Commodores tried out many different quarterbacks, but this year I think they will go with Johnny McCrary, who I believe is capable of competing. Ralph Webb will definitely help Vanderbilt when they need to lean on something other than the quarterback spot. Here’s my prediction:
September 3 vs. Western Kentucky, L 34-45: Right out of the gates, Vanderbilt will be hit with a tough test against the Hilltoppers. Western Kentucky brings one of the best offenses in the country along with Brandon Doughty, who one of the best taking snaps. I do not think that Vanderbilt can slow down the Western Kentucky offense, and it will tough to match them on the offensive side. A tough way to start out the season for the Commodores.
September 12 vs. Georgia, L 7-34: Vanderbilt will be in the spotlight of CBS at 2:30 p.m. as they try to spoil the Bulldogs’ hopes of an SEC Championship berth. If this one gets out of hands for the Commodores, Coach Mason will probably give Wade Freebeck a drive or two and see how he does. With Nick Chubb returning for Georgia, I just do not know how long the Commodores can go without getting fatigued, as Georgia will run it almost every play.
September 19 vs. Austin Peay, W 42-3: This one should be very laid back for Mason and the Commodores as they really should not have any problems with the Governors. Coach Mason will just focus on getting an early lead and then letting some guys get playing time who usually would not.
September 26 at Ole Miss, L 3-48: Vanderbilt will come into Oxford after their first win, but they won’t have the same fate here — unable to pull the upset. Tommy Openshaw will split one through the uprights for the Commodores’ only points.
October 3 at Middle Tennessee, W 38-15: Vanderbilt will head out of Oxford and head to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, about 30 miles south of Nashville, where they will face Middle Tennessee. Vanderbilt should rebound, and I think they will grab a win on the road. Ralph Webb will have a day in this one, as I expect him to put up some numbers in this game.
October 17 at South Carolina, L 21-34: I’m giving Vanderbilt a chance to win this ballgame because of how poor the Gamecocks defense is, but it will be difficult at William-Brice. The Commodores will put up three touchdowns, but the defense will struggle against a good South Carolina offense.
October 24 vs. Missouri, L 17-21: Vanderbilt will head back to Nashville, where they will face back to back SEC East Champions, the Missouri Tigers. I’m going to give Vanderbilt a chance in this one because of the close game between these two last season, and all Vanderbilt could have done over the offense was improve. Vanderbilt will come very close to the first SEC win under Derek Mason, but it will have to wait.
October 31 at Houston, W 49-34: Expect some points as the Commodores head to Houston and face the Cougars. Vanderbilt will come in and expect McCrary to throw the football and Derek Mason will let the offense go. Vanderbilt did top off Houston in their last bowl appearance with a 41-24 win at the BBVA Compass Bowl.
November 7 at Florida, L 10-34: Vanderbilt heads to Gainesville, where they will face Jim McElwain and the Florida Gators. I think that they will once again struggle to move the football against SEC opponents. Geoff Collins will really shut down this offense and give the Gators a relaxed win.
November 14 vs. Kentucky, L 14-37: A loss here would make Vanderbilt ineligible for post-season play for the second year under Derek Mason. It’s going to happen. Kentucky’s offense is much better than the Commodores’, and I don’t see Vanderbilt winning this game against an improved Wildcats’ team.
November 21 vs. Texas A&M, L 17-44: This is not a good match for that Commodores. Texas A&M has a lot of speed on the outside at receiver. This should be an improved Aggie defense with John Chavis stepping in at defensive coordinator. We may see Darrius Sims find some open field and return a kickoff for six.
November 28 at Tennessee, L 19-29: There’s a lot of hype coming out of Knoxville, and whether the Vols live up to it or not, I think that they will outmatch Vanderbilt. It will be another winless SEC season for Vanderbilt.
2015 Projection: Vanderbilt: 3-9, 0-8 SEC; 7th SEC East
Grant Daniels, a student at Oxford High School, is sports correspondent for HottyToddy.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org