It took three seasons, but the Vanderbilt Commodores are once again exceeding expectations. Derek Mason had a rough start to his time in the Music City, but turned the corner in his third year. Despite being an underdog in nine of their 12 games in the regular season, the Commodores managed to go 6-6 and torpedoed two division rivals’ chances at winning the SEC East. Vandy would love to build off of that, but the schedule is going to make that very difficult in 2017.
2016 Record: 6-7 SU, 7-6 ATS, 6-6-1 O/U
2017 Regular Season Win Total: 6 Under -160
National Championship Odds: +100000
Odds To Win SEC: +25000
Wins over Georgia and Tennessee were the two highlights of Derek Mason’s best season yet in Nashville. The Commodores were heavy underdogs in both games, but responded with two valiant defensive efforts that helped Vandy become bowl eligible. The fourth-down stop in Athens that sealed the 17-16 win against Georgia still brings smiles to Vandy fans and players.
Linebacker Zach Cunningham was the leader of the team. He was the man in the middle for Vanderbilt’s defense and opposing offenses had to be constantly aware of where he was on the field. Cunningham was the first consensus first-team All-American that Vanderbilt has had since the 1980s and finished the year with 125 tackles and 16.5 tackles for loss.
On offense, Vanderbilt relied on the ground game to move the chains. Ralph Webb was named second-team All-SEC at running back and averaged 5.1 yards per carry. Overall, 26 of Vanderbilt’s 35 offensive touchdowns came on the ground.
Webb is back for 2017, but might see a dip in his numbers. Vanderbilt has three of its five starters along the offensive line returning, however the other two starting slots are likely to be filled by freshmen. Those spots are at left tackle and center, the two most important spots on the line.
Although Kyle Shurmur threw more interceptions than touchdowns last season, he wasn’t that bad as Vandy’s starting quarterback. Shurmur will have all his top wideouts from last season coming back to the team, so he should be pretty comfortable under center and is likely to improve on his production as a junior.
Losing Cunningham is huge and the defense will certainly feel it. The secondary gave up big chunks of yardage last season, so the defensive staff tried to alleviate that by switching to a 3-3-5. The defensive backs should be the strength of the team now with four seniors as returning starters, but we’ll see how it plays out.
The first half of this schedule is brutal. Vanderbilt could very easily be 1-5 going into the second half of the season and that would make returning to the postseason tough. The Commodores didn’t do themselves any favors by scheduling tough foes like Middle Tennessee State, Western Kentucky, and Kansas State out of conference and the only easy win is FCS Alabama A&M. They should be competitive in most of their games over the last half of the season though and will likely finish around .500.
Saturday, September 2: Vanderbilt at Middle Tennessee State
Saturday, September 9: Vanderbilt vs. Alabama A&M
Saturday, September 16: Vanderbilt vs. Kansas State
Saturday, September 23: Vanderbilt vs. Alabama
Saturday, September 30: Vanderbilt at Florida
Saturday, October 7: Vanderbilt vs. Georgia
Saturday, October 14: Vanderbilt at Ole Miss
Saturday, October 28: Vanderbilt at South Carolina
Saturday, November 4: Vanderbilt vs. Western Kentucky
Saturday, November 11: Vanderbilt vs. Kentucky
Saturday, November 18: Vanderbilt vs. Missouri
Saturday, November 25: Vanderbilt at Tennessee
|SEC Conference||Big 10 Conference|
|ACC Conference||Big 12 Conference|
|Pac 12 Conference||Big East Conference|
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