Vanderbilt Betting Odds Preview
James Franklin got something cooking in Nashville, taking this program to places it hadn't been in a long time. But he wasn't going to stay here forever, and now he's off to coach in Joe Pa's shadow up at Penn State. So now it's up to first-time head coach Derek Mason to keep this good thing going. Unfortunately, there might be a bump in the road coming up.
Vandy has a bunch of holes to fill this year, especially at quarterback, wide receiver and on defense, and regular rivals like Florida, Georgia and Tennessee – all of whom the Commodores beat last year - will be better this year. A fourth straight bowl appearance might be asking too much for a new coaching regime.
Vanderbilt opened 4-4 last year, with a win over Georgia and losses to Ole Miss, South Carolina, eventual East Division champion Missouri and Texas A&M. But the Commodores then won at Florida for the first time since 1945, beat Kentucky, won at Tennessee and squeezed by Wake Forest. Vandy then ended on a high note with a victory over Houston in the Compass Bowl to finish 9-4 SU, 7-6 ATS.
Since the middle of 2012 the Commodores have won 15 of their last 19 games. They've also been one of the better teams to bet on over the last three seasons, going 25-14 ATS under Franklin, 15-9 ATS in SEC play.
This year Vandy gets back just 10 starters, second-fewest in the league. Six starters return on offense, including last year's leading rusher and four along the offensive line, but the Commodores will have to replace their starting quarterback and last year's top two receivers. And only four starters are back on defense, none in the secondary.
Vandy begins this season with four home games, although two of them are against Ole Miss and South Carolina. The Commodores later play at Georgia, Missouri and Mississippi State, and host Florida and Tennessee. Also, fortunately, they miss Alabama, LSU and Auburn. Vanderbilt has a chance to go 4-0 in non-conference play, which would make it much easier to become bowl eligible.
Mason served most recently as the defensive coordinator at Stanford, so Vandy has a good chance to remain solid on that side of the line. But combining the learning curve that comes with the new coaching regime, the many holes to fill and the potential for reversal of good fortune, the Commodores might have a tough time returning to a bowl this season.
SEC Championship Odds at Bovada as of August 5
South Carolina 5/1
Ole Miss 14/1
Texas A&M 25/1
Mississippi State 40/1
Vanderbilt is not known as a football school but head coach James Franklin is trying to turn it into one. Just before Franklin arrived the Commodores struggled through back-to-back 2-10 campaigns. In his first season in charge he took Vandy to a bowl, a major achievement for this program. And last year the Commodores won nine games, and went 5-3 in the big, bad SEC. Now the trick for VU is to maintain this level of success, and to hang on to its head coach before he's poached away.
The Commodores began last year with tough losses to South Carolina and Northwestern. Later they got blown out at Georgia, won at Missouri, then lost another tough one to Florida to fall to 2-4. But Vandy, as hard as it may be to believe, didn't lose another game after that. The Commodores beat Auburn and UMass at home, pounded Kentucky in Lexington, rallied to beat Ole Miss 27-26 in Oxford, got some sweet payback on Tennessee, put up 55 points on Wake Forest, and knocked off N.C. State in the Music City Bowl. So the Commodores finished 9-4, 5-3 in the SEC and ended the season ranked No. 23. And it's been a long time since Vandy finished in anybody's season-ending poll.
The Commodores also went a profitable 9-4 ATS last year, as oddsmakers and bettors were slow to pick up on what was happening down in Nashville. This year Vandy returns 13 starters; seven on offense, including their top two receivers and three along the line, and six on defense, including five of the back seven. But they'll have to replace QB Jordan Rodgers, 1,100-yard rusher Zac Stacy, and three of the defensive front four. This year's schedule is not quite as nice as last year's.
The Commodores should be favored in three of their four SEC home games (probably not against Georgia), but they must play at South Carolina, at Texas A&M, at Florida, and at Tennessee. Fortunately they miss Alabama and LSU, but at this point, it looks like they'll still have a tough time equaling last year's win total.
SEC Championship Odds at 5Dimes as of July 29
South Carolina +500
Texas A&M +850
Mississippi State +10000