Seasons like the one Vanderbilt had in 2012 don't come around very often in Nashville. The Commodores had a winning SEC record, their first since 1982. They won nine games, their first season with that many wins since before the SEC was called the SEC, back in 1915. (They were SIAA Champions that year.) And after a Music City Bowl win, they finished the year ranked, for, well, the first time ever.
James Franklin's been able to keep the momentum going with strong recruiting, but he loses quarterback Jordan Rodgers and running back Zac Stacy and several other key cogs from the most successful team in school history. Here's a look at the Commodores' schedule going into 2013 as they try to keep the good vibes going.
2013 Vanderbilt schedule
Projections from Football Outsiders' 2013 college football almanac.
If there's one knock on Vanderbilt, it's that their 2013 non-conference scheduling is a bit of a cop-out. Due to some combination of new SEC members meaning new SEC schedules and a desire to win a bunch of football games, the Commodores bought out previously agreed-upon games with Ohio State and Northwestern, both Big Ten squads, one that went undefeated last year and the other a squad that included Vanderbilt amongst its ten wins. Instead, they play Austin Peay, UMass, UAB, and Wake Forest, one of the weakest non-conference slates by any power conference team.
The good news is those wins -- or, at the very least, should-be wins -- can keep Vandy afloat. Jordan Rodgers and Zac Stacy were responsible for a lot of the offensive success the team had, and although star wide receiver Jordan Matthews decided to return to school instead of heading to the NFL, the Commodores lose a lot of the talent around him. They also lose five defensive starters. And after that senior-laden team got five SEC wins, that feat will be hard to replicate two years in a row.
But if the 'Dores can do work in all four of their non-conference games -- and they'd better -- and a squad trying to fill major holes manages to eke out a couple of in-conference wins, they'll be bowl eligible. That's not the end goal for Vandy, but it'll keep momentum rolling until the highly touted recruiting classes Franklin has brought in can show up on campus. And getting this team an even better record than 6-6 wouldn't be the most shocking thing Franklin has done with the 'Dores.