The transformation of the Vanderbilt football program with James Franklin at the helm has been truly remarkable. He has his team in line to possibly be competing in a third straight bowl game after winning an impressive nine games a year ago. For a program like Vanderbilt, to become competitive and nationally respected, especially in the SEC, is a testament to the job Franklin has done so far. Going into this season, there are many reasons to like the Commodores to shock some teams and shake up the SEC East race.
Jordan Rodgers departed after last year, and stepping in to replace him is senior Austin Carta-Samuels. Carta-Samuels began his career starting at QB for Wyoming before transferring to Vanderbilt Although he has not been on the field much at Vanderbilt, he has enough collegiate experience to make a seamless transition into the starting QB role. It also helps to have WR Jordan Matthews to throw to. Matthews, the conference’s leading returning receiver, is a big and explosive receiver and arguably the SEC’s best receiver. However, losing Chris Boyd, the other part of arguably the conference’s best receiving tandem, for the time being while the Vanderbilt sexual assault scandal continues to be investigated. Furthermore, the biggest challenge will be to replace the school’s all-time leading rusher in Zac Stacy. Yet, Wesley Tate appears primed to step into that role and help add to one of the more explosive offenses in the SEC. A veteran defense and offensive line will only help Vanderbilt take their game to the next level this upcoming year.
The Commodore’s schedule is not the easiest to manage, but this team has the tools to be up to the task. The squad must embark on some very tough road games at Texas A&M, South Carolina, and Florida. However, they get key opponents Georgia and Ole Miss at home, which will be very important games for them to win. If they can win one of those road games and pull out a victory against Georgia, then this could be a special year for Vanderbilt. It seems to be the consensus that the SEC East is a three-team race between Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. However, do not sleep on Vanderbilt to make a legitimate run at the division crown if they can perform well enough on the road.