Best case Vanderbilt: Commodores win two SEC games in 2015
Kicking off our post-spring ‘Best Case’ series for each SEC team in 2015, we’ll start with Vanderbilt who has nowhere to go but up in an extremely competitive league. Derek Mason’s inaugural dance was a disaster no matter how you slice it, due largely on inconsistency at the quarterback position.
The SEC slate isn’t as tough as it could be this fall, but it’ll still make for an uphill climb if the Commodores want to find themselves bowling at the end of the season.
2014 record: 3-9, 0-8
2015 best case: 5-7, 2-6
Closer look: Before we mark off four wins during the non-conference portion of the schedule, first consider the competition. Western Kentucky and Houston each won eight games last fall while Middle Tennessee finished .500. My guess would be the Commodores split two games against Conference-USA teams, take out Austin Peay at home and maybe find a way to beat the Cougars on the road. That’s 3-1 with a best-case 2-6 SEC margin to go. There’s only one favorable league matchup on the slate this season and that’s Kentucky at home on Nov. 14. Much of that will be determined by the way Vanderbilt fares against Florida the previous week, a game that could be decided in the fourth quarter based on both offenses involved.
Silver lining: An above average defense with Mason moving to his preferred side of the football gives Vanderbilt a puncher’s chance to derail a contender’s season this fall. The offense has to be better for this to work, however. If the Commodores can sweep their non-league games (will be tough), beat Kentucky and win a game they’re not supposed to during the other seven weeks of SEC hell, a bowl invite at 6-6 would be in order. A 3-2 start before the open date on Oct. 10 prior to a road trip to South Carolina is essential toward making progress. If Vanderbilt loses its opener to Western Kentucky, takes one on the chin at Georgia and manages to slip-up in Game 3 to Austin Peay, double-digit losses is a possibility.