Vanderbilt Commodores 2018 Schedule Analysis

Vanderbilt Commodores 2018 Schedule Analysis
September 1, 2016: Vanderbilt safety Ryan White (14) and head coach Derek Mason lead the Commodores out of the tunnel before a 13-10 loss to South Carolina at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jamie Gilliam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Head Coach Derek Mason and his Commodores finished the 2017 season on a high note with a win at Tennessee. However, the 2017 season as a whole was abysmal. They kicked off the season STRONG, yet failed to become bowl eligible due to a heinous five-game skid in the middle of the season. Ralph Webb ran deeper into the record books. Although, I can only imagine what more he could have achieved if there had been a better offensive line to protect him, as well as Kyle Shurmur.  Mason begins his fifth season as head coach. he has given up his defensive coordinator duties to Jason Tarver, whom he worked with at Stanford. So, is this year a whole NEW Vandy or the same OLD Vandy?

Let’s Ride: The Vanderbilt Commodores 2018 Schedule Analysis

Technically EVERY team has the opportunity to go undefeated.  We all know college football is an imperfect game played by “kids”.  Vanderbilt has just as much chance to shock the world and go undefeated as the self-proclaimed National Champions University of Central Florida did last season. This could be the season that Vandy goes from being the homecoming game on everyone’s schedule to being the upset kings of the SEC East. Everyone outside of Commodore Nation believes Vandy doesn’t stand a chance this season. As usual, I am choosing the radical and more positive stance, I believe in Mason and his football team; now don’t let me down, guys. Let’s Ride!

Game 1: Middle Tennessee State vs. Vanderbilt, September 1st 

6:30 pm CST, SECN, Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, TN

Vandy opens Saturday, September 1st with MTSU. The Blue Raiders will again be led by Senior quarterback, Brent Stockstill. He is healthy and back in the saddle. He has a stocked running and receiving corps at his disposal. The MTSU defense is small but mighty and full of returning starters.  It will be a good game to see what the Tarver era has in store for Commodore Nation. As well as seeing how Shurmur utilizes his air raid options and his running backs by committee. Vandy leads the series match up 15-3 and has won the last three games under Mason. (WIN)

Game 2: Nevada vs. Vanderbilt, September 8th

11:00 am CST, SECNA, Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, TN

Nevada travels to Nashville in week two.  This will be the first meeting between the Wolfpack and the Commodores.  Nevada is a team that is struggling to find its identity offensively and their defense lacks depth.  Second-year HC Jay Norvell will have his team ready to go.  Although, Vandy will have the home field advantage and should use this opportunity to test, tweak and dig deep into their playbook as well as their depth chart. (WIN)

Game 3: Vanderbilt at Notre Dame, September 15th

1:30 pm CST, NBC, Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, IN

This will be the third time that the Dores and The Irish meet on the football field. The keyboard cowboys took Mason’s quotes from SEC Media Days and turned them into bulletin board material for the Fighting Irish. They do not need bulletin board material as the Irish get top-level recruits because of their historic reputation. Their depth chart is well stocked. This will not be an easy road game for the Dores. Although I fully expect Mason, Tarver, and OC Andy Ludwig to put up a great fight in South Bend. (LOSS)

Game 4:  South Carolina vs. Vanderbilt, September 22nd

TBD, Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, TN

Will Muschamp and his explosive personality have elevated the Gamecocks the last two seasons. They are certainly a force to be reckoned with. The Dores have played South Carolina tough under Mason. However, they cannot seem to get over the proverbial hump and pull off the win. Will 2018 be the year that Vandy beats the Gamecocks? Your guess is as good as mine. I am hoping that Shurmur’s senior experience and a Joejuan Williams led defense will finally leave the Gamecocks stunned on the sidelines of Dudley Field. (WIN)

Game 5:  Tennessee State vs. Vanderbilt, September 29th

TBD, Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, TN

The TSU Tigers are coming off a 6-5 season. They are loaded with running backs and currently have a battle of experienced quarterbacks with Michael Hughes and Minnesota transfer Demry Croft.  Their defense is looking to fill some of the defensive holes with freshman and another Big Ten transfer, Christion Abercrombie.  Despite the stocked Tigers team, the Dores should work on playing a fundamentally sound game against TSU, with the hopes of getting some reps for their deeper roster. (WIN)

Game 6: Vanderbilt at Georgia, October 6th

TBD, Sanford Stadium, Athens, GA

Kirby Smart has his team playing at championship levels. That field between the hedges is going to be an even tougher spot to pull off the last minute win than it was two years ago with that glorious one-point victory. Georgia is coming off an SEC Championship and College Football Playoff run last season. The Bulldogs have a deep and loaded roster. The question is if the Vanderbilt offense can come out swinging and the defense can keep Jake Fromm or Justin Fields  (Smart has not released the name of his starting quarterback yet) in check. The Bulldogs are favored as they are in every game on their schedule. I would like to believe that Vandy can pull off another upset on the road but not sure it will be against Georgia. (LOSS)

Game 7: Florida vs. Vanderbilt, October 13th

TBD, Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, TN

These pesky Gators. This game is similar to the South Carolina game. These have been winnable games every year for Vandy. Extremely hard-fought games, and every bit of the very famous Vince Lombardi quote “we just ran out of time” games. With Dan Mullen as the new head coach for the Gators, will this be the year Vandy beats the Gators? Will, that air of newness bode well for the Dores? I believe mid-October Vanderbilt will be able to keep up with their SEC brethren. If every Vandy athlete on this team puts in the work that Webb put into his game prep this team will be virtually unstoppable. This could be the upset win of the season. (WIN)

Game 8: Vanderbilt at Kentucky, October 20th

TBD, Kroger Field, Lexington, KY

The Wildcats seem to have the most unanswered questions on offense. No quarterback has Kentucky game experience. Receivers have potential and they have Benny Snell, who is coming off a sophomore slump. The Cats defense is thick with seniors, which should help make up for a lack of offense. Vandy traveling to Lexington does not improve their chances of winning. Big Blue Nation will have Kroger Field roaring.  This will be a hard game for the ‘Dores to win, especially on the road. (LOSS)

Game 9: Vanderbilt at Arkansas, October 27th

TBD, D.W.R. Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville, AR

Arkansas has a new head coach which means a new system and new coaches for the Razorbacks, yet Vandy is still not picked to win this game. This lack of respect for Vandy is nothing new. It is a road game for the Commodores, yet there is no reason that they cannot go into Arkansas and pull off the win. The Dores should be settled into Tarver’s defense by game number nine. While Shurmur should have enough time to complete passes blindfolded, his offensive line should be stronger than a clam with lockjaw at this point of the season. (WIN)

Game 10: Vanderbilt at Missouri, November 10th

TBD, Faurot Field, Columbia, MO

Missouri finished last season at an unstoppable pace. They rolled through Nashville and didn’t even bother to hit the brakes. The Tigers have their share of holes to fill but they will be just as tough to beat this season. Especially, considering a road trip in November. Trying to figure out how good a team is going to be in November is a nearly impossible feat in late August. Last year, I believed Vandy had a chance to beat Missouri. But, that did not happen. I believe Missouri is a better team this year. BUT, I also believe Vandy is a much-improved team as well. I think the Commodores put up a great fight in Columbia, but in the end, the Tigers will prevail. (LOSS)

Game 11: Ole Miss at Vanderbilt, November 17th

TBD, Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, TN

The Rebels … er … oh wait, is it the Landsharks now? Have you seen this heinous thing they call a mascot? It is terrifying. Sorry, I digress. Ole Miss never fails to field a potent team and Matt Luke will no doubt suit up his best cast of characters. Although, let us not forget, that Vandy routed Ole Miss 38-17 the last time they played on West End. Also, if my memory serves me this was the first game that the now semi-famous tweeting vest appeared on the back of Mason. No two football games are the same. This game will be won by the team that wants it more. For the Commodore seniors, they will want another win over Ole Miss on their record.  I am not sure they will get it. (LOSS)

Game 12: Tennessee vs. Vanderbilt, November 24th

TBD, Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, TN

Dudley Field will look like a spilled Orange Julius as the Volunteers make their presence known in Nashville.  Yes, Vandy has beaten the Volunteers the last two seasons. Butch is gone and he has been replaced by a Sabanite, Jeremy Pruitt. {Random side note: I just created that term “Sabanite”, meaning someone who comes from the Nick Saban coaching tree.  If anyone else uses it you know where it started.}  As stated above, for the other two teams with new head coaches, there is always a learning curve with new coaching staffs. No matter how talented your team is if the players are not cohesive with each other or with the coaching staff nothing will get done on the field. The entire Vanderbilt football team will want a third win over Tennessee on their stat sheet. This will be their chance to have the longest win streak over the Volunteers since they beat them six straight seasons from 1920-1926.  (WIN)

Time Will Tell

Two years ago this week I wrote my VERY first Vanderbilt football schedule analysis.  It was also my very first football article EVER. What I have learned after two years of attempting to predict football games is that you can’t. There are no sure wins. Like I said before, this is an imperfect game played by “kids”.  Do I think Vandy is better than it was two seasons ago? YES!!! Do I think they will win the SEC East? NO. However, I sincerely and honestly believe the Commodores will go 7-5 this season.  I am excited to see what Tarver and his defense have in store for Commodore Nation.

I believe Mason has done a great job so far in Nashville. It has not been an easy job for him the last four seasons. Think about it for a minute; how hard must it be to come into the SEC as a first-time head coach?  Do they have a manual for first-time head coaches? I don’t care how many friends you might have that are head coaches, we all know men are notoriously bad at communicating.

I cannot imagine men reaching out to each other and saying, “Hey man, congrats on the new job. Now, listen close, this is everything you need to do to get it done as a head coach…” And then proceed to give a point by point outline of what needs to be done. Mason has been learning how to do an extremely difficult job while on the job. This is his season to prove that he is worthy of the title of head coach. This is all his, all his recruits, all his coaches, all his vision and it kicks off Saturday.

Now, Let’s Ride!

 

 

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