Vanderbilt may have only improved by 1-game from 2014, but were much more competitive. The Commodores finished up the 2015 season with a record of 4-8.
They did manage to win two conference games after going winless in the SEC the previous year. They also went from getting outgained by 169 ypg in conference play to just 92 ypg.
The other thing to keep in mind, is Vanderbilt easily could have got to a bowl game. They lost by 2-points in the opener against WKU, despite outgaining them by nearly 140 yards. They also lost 7-9 on a late field goal at Florida.
The Commodores will head into Derek Mason’s third year at head coach flying under the radar. They will have one of the most experienced team in the SEC with 15 returning starters. Only 17 lettermen lost. At the same time, they still have a lot of ground to make up to be taken seriously.
|Date||Opponent||Spread (Est.)||Win Chance|
|9/17||@ Georgia Tech|
|9/24||@ Western Kentucky|
|Estimated Wins: TBD|
*We take the win chance by using the college football win percentage chart for each point spread.
If Vanderbilt is going to have any shot at making a bowl game in 2016, they have to get off to a strong start. They open at home against South Carolina, who they will be favored against. They also figure to have a good shot at beating Middle Tennessee to open 2-0.
The two key matchups are road games against Georgia Tech and Western Kentucky. Both teams that the Commodores are capable of beating, but they are also just 1-9 on the road under Mason.
Vanderbilt’s struggles away from home could prove to be downfall of them this season. That’s because most of their winnable games are on the road. The Commodores other 3 SEC home games are against Florida, Ole Miss and Tennessee.
An upset of any of those 3 seems unlikely. That leaves road games at Kentucky, Auburn and Missouri to build up the resume.
Another thing I want to point out about the schedule is a brutal stretch from Sept. 17 to Nov. 12. Over this period, Vanderbilt will play 6 of 8 games on the road.
Vanderbilt returns 8 starters on offense, but will need to get better quarterback play. Both sophomore Johnny McCrary and true freshman Kyle Shurmur led the offense in 2015. Neither was all that impressive. The two had just 11 touchdowns to 15 interceptions.
As a result the Commodores offense averaged a mere 15.2 ppg and 327 ypg. McCrary transferred to Mercer, leaving Shurmur as the likely candidate to start. Though he could be challenged by true freshman Deuce Wallace.
Whoever wins the starting job will have some talent to work with at wide receiver. Vanderbilt gets their top two targets back from 2015 in Trent Sherfield and Caleb Scott. They also return sophomore C.J. Duncan, who missed all of last year with a leg injury. Duncan has 28 receptions for 441 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2014.
The Commodores should be able to run the football against most teams. They have 3 starters back and a lot more experience up front on the offensive line. They also get back starting running back Ralph Webb, who had 1,152 yards and 5 scores as a sophomore.
You can’t blame Vanderbilt’s defense for last year’s 4-win campaign. The Commodores made massive strides on this side of the ball. After giving up 33.0 ppg and 402 ypg in 2014, they held opponents to just 21.0 ppg and 351 ypg.
Not a huge surprise, given Mason’s background as a defensive coordinator. Vanderbilt figures to be strong on this side again in 2016 with 7 starters coming back.
The heart and soul of the defense is at linebacker, where the Commodores are loaded with talent. They get back their top tackler in Zach Cunningham and will move Owen Burks in from free safety. They also return 2014’s leading tackler in Nigel Bowden, who only started 2 games last year. This unit ranks among the top 5 in the SEC and Top 10 in the country.
Vanderbilt doesn’t have near the talent along the defensive line, but will have 5 of the top 6 back from last year. That includes starters Adam Butler and Nifae Lealao.
The secondary loses a key piece in Burks (moving to linebacker), but the 3 other starters are back. Last year teams really struggled to throw the ball against Vanderbilt. Opposing teams averaged just 207 ypg through the air and completed just 55% of their attempts.
Regular Season Win Total
SEC East Odds
SEC Championship Odds
National Championship Odds
Odds Courtesy of 5Dimes
*Odds updated live on our college football odds page
If you are a Commodores fan, you have to like what Mason is doing here. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m likely on the low side when it comes to predicting how they will finish in 2016.
I have Vanderbilt going just 1-7 in the SEC and 4-8 overall. Even though I have them projected to finish with the same record as last year, they will be improved.
There are two key factors to why I only have them winning 4-games. First, I have major concerns with what they will get out of the quarterback position.
Second, I think the schedule is a lot harder. I think 3-3 is a reasonable record at home given who they have to play. That means they have to win 2 on the road just to get to 5 wins and 3 to be bowl eligible. I just don’t see that happening.
One thing to point out is that they only have 4 projected senior starters. If everyone sticks around, the Commodores will have an excellent shot at bowl game in 2017.
Win Total Prediction