Vanderbilt Football Predictions

The Commodores were more competitive in head coach Derek Mason’s second season last year. They only improved by one win from 3-9 to 4-8, but it was clear that they could hang with some of the powers of of the SEC thanks to their dominant defense.

In fact, they only lost 7-9 at Florida, which went 7-1 in SEC play to win the East division. They picked up two conference wins at home against Missouri and Kentucky after going 0-8 in SEC play in Mason’s first season.

Mason should have his best team yet as he enters his third season in Nashville. He will be welcoming back 15 starters and a whopping 57 lettermen while losing only 16 letter winners. Let’s see how this team fares now that he has all of his recruits in place.

Last Season
SEC East
ATS Record
Points For
Points Against
4-8 (2-6 SEC)
2016 Vanderbilt Commodores Schedule
Date Opponent
Spread (Est.)
Win Chance
9/1 South Carolina
9/10 Middle Tennessee
9/17 @ Georgia Tech
9/24 @ WKU
10/1 Florida
10/8 @ Kentucky
10/15 @ Georgia
10/22 Tennessee State
11/5 @ Auburn
11/12 @ Missouri
11/19 Ole Miss
11/26 Tennessee
Estimated Wins: TBD

The key to the season will be improving upon an offense that averaged just 15.2 points per game last season. They did put up 327 yards per game, but didn’t get a lot out of it as they averaged a monstrous 21.5 yards per point. Improving upon their combined -24 turnover differential over the past two seasons will be big.

The Commodores need better QB play, and they are hoping that sophomore Kyle Shurmur can provide it. He didn’t fare too well as a freshman last year in completing 42.7 percent of his passes for 503 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions in limited action.

The good news is that Vanderbilt has one of the best backs in the SEC in Ralph Webb, who rushed for 1,152 yards and five touchdowns last year. Each of the top two receivers are back in Trent Sherfield (51 receptions, 659 yards, 3 TD) and Caleb Scott (24, 339, 2 TD). They also get back CJ Duncan (441 receiving yards in ’14), who was out for the season last year due to injury.

The offensive line returns three starters and 63 career starts. They are led by senior C Barrett Gouger and senior RT Will Holden. They get back junior LT Andrew Jelks, who was out for the season last year due to injury. Sophomore RG Bruno Raegan and junior LG Delando Crooks are also expected to step into starting roles. This unit should improve and pave the way for Webb to have a monster junior season.


Mason certainly knows how to coach up a defense. This unit went from allowing 33.3 points per game in his first season in 2014 to just 21.0 points per game last year. Now the Commodores return seven starters and four of their top five tacklers on this side of the ball. They should have one of the best stop units in the SEC as a result.

The defensive line returns five of the top six on the depth chart from a year ago. There are two returning starters here in DT Adam Butler (18 tackles, 7 for loss, 3 sacks) and NG Nifae Lealoa (18 tackles). DE Jonathan Wynn (21 tackles, 3 for loss) will take the place of the departed Caleb Azubike, who was their best player up front the past few years.

Despite losing both Darreon Herring and Stephen Weatherly to the NFL, the Commodores figure to have one of the best linebacking corps in the SEC. That’s because they return two studs in third-team All-American ILB Zach Cunningham (103 tackles, 16.5 for loss) and FS Oren Burks (59 tackles, 3 INT). They also get back ILB Nigel Bowden, who missed all but two starts last season due to injury. Sophomore OLB Josh Smith is extremely talented and ready for a starting role.

The secondary returns three starters and eight of the top 11 from last year’s depth chart. The returning starters are CB Tre Herndon (47 tackles), CB Torren McGaster (51 tackles, 13 pass break-ups) and FS Emmanuel Smith. Junior SS Arnold Tarpley (36 tackles, 5 for loss) has starting experience as well.

Odds (Courtesy of 5Dimes)
Regular Season Win Total
SEC East Odds
SEC Championship Odds
4-Team Playoff Odds
National Championship Odds
Season Predictions

It’s really hard for me to call Vanderbilt 4-8 for a second consecutive season considering how improved I expect them to be this year. The offense figures to be improved behind the rushing attack of Webb, and the defense will be one of the most dominant in the SEC.

The schedule is what concerns me the most. The Commodores have tough non-conference road games at Georgia Tech and Western Kentucky. While both are winnable, they will likely be underdogs in both contests. I have them beating Middle Tennessee and Tennessee State at home for two of their wins, and then splitting their games against WKU and Tech.

But I can only foresee one win for the Commodores in SEC play. That’s because their home schedule is brutal with Tennessee, Ole Miss, Florida and South Carolina. They can beat SC, but they’ll likely lose the other three. And they’ll be road underdogs to Kentucky, Georgia, Auburn and Missouri. I do foresee 4-8 as the worst-case scenario, though, and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they get back to a bowl game.

2016 Projections
SEC East
SEC Record
Overall Record
Win Total Prediction
Under 6
More College Football Predictions
Conference USA

Read More Like This