Vanderbilt Football: Game-by-game predictions for 2014
Will Auburn repeat as SEC champions? What team will emerge as a division darkhorse no one’s talking about? It’s time for Year 2 of our two-week, daily ‘Crystal Ball’ series on how each of the SEC’s 14 teams will finish this fall.
We hit a couple big-time upsets last fall including Tennessee’s win over South Carolina, but didn’t expect 12 wins out of Mizzou, a BCS title-game run from Auburn or Florida’s faceplant in Will Muschamp’s third season.
2014 CRYSTAL BALL SERIES
- MISSISSIPPI ST.
- TEXAS A&M
- OLE MISS
- SOUTH CAROLINA
THE 2014 BATTLEFIELD
Aug. 28 Temple (W): The schedule gods arranged this delicious cupcake for Derek Mason to devour in his prime-time debut. Vanderbilt’s new-look defense will explode against a scoring offense that ranked 90th in the nation during a 10-loss season last fall.
Sept. 6 vs. Ole Miss, Nashville (L): The Rebels can kiss whatever thoughts they had of a splendid season goodbye if they fall in this ‘neutral’ battle at LP Field. Ole Miss has better talent at almost every position, but the Commodores have won three out of the last four games in this series. This game should provide some late fireworks and a close finish.
Sept. 13 vs. UMass (W): A tissue-soft non-league slate continues for Vanderbilt against one of the worst teams in the FBS ranks in 2013. The third of four straight games against Power 5 opponents to open the season for the Minutemen, getting a first down, much less piecing together a touchdown drive, will be a challenge.
Sept. 20 vs. South Carolina (L): Vanderbilt always keeps it interesting with the Gamecocks and even pulled off the upset in 2008. The Commodores are still sore from the last time these two met in Nashville when a controversial no-call on what looked like a pass interference penalty clinched a 17-13 victory for South Carolina.
Sept. 27 at Kentucky (W): A pivotal contest for both teams, the Commodores’ first SEC victory of the Mason era comes against the Wildcats. Things will go south in a hurry however if Vanderbilt doesn’t find a way.
Oct. 4 at Georgia (L): The toughest game the first half of the season is this road trip to Sanford Stadium, a venue that’s been a house of horrors for Vanderbilt. The Bulldogs will be in the midseason form by this point as long as Mark Richt’s team isn’t bitten by the injury bug like last season.
Oct. 11 vs. Charleston Southern (W): Luckily for Vanderbilt, it’ll have two bye weeks before a division showdown at Mizzou.
Oct. 25 at Mizzou (L): Vanderbilt’s second-worst loss last season came against the Tigers, a 23-point smacking at home. This year’s matchup could be even tougher if defending East champ Mizzou’s still in the division race by late October.
Nov. 1 vs. Old Dominion (W): The Commodores’ fifth win comes without much effort. Again, round of applause to a schedule design aimed at getting to bowl eligibility.
Nov. 8 vs. Florida (L): A challenging late-season stretch begins with a home game against the Gators. Quarterback Jeff Driskel rushed for 177 yards and three touchdowns on just 11 carries during Florida’s 2012 win at Vanderbilt Stadium.
Nov. 22 at Mississippi St. (L): Not an easy game for either team, the Commodores will go down kicking and screaming in a tight road affair likely in SEC Network primetime. For the second straight game, the Vanderbilt defense’s primary focus will be chasing after a mobile quarterback.
Nov. 28 vs. Tennessee (W): This one won’t be for the faint of heart if you like offense. Remember how last year’s game was defined by a multitude of punts and turnovers? A gutsy call at the end leads to another Vanderbilt win.
2014 PROJECTED FINISH: 6-6, 2-6
THE LOWDOWN: The season-ending rivalry matchup with Tennessee will dictate Vanderbilt’s bowl chances in Mason’s first season, quite a feat considering the rookie head coach had to salvage a recruiting class from near scratch and pick between a variety of quarterbacks with little to no experience coming in. Some have picked the Commodores to finish at the bottom of the standings, behind Kentucky even, but the non-conference slate is weak and there’s enough talent on defense to keep that from happening.