Vanderbilt finished the 2013 season on a five-game winning streak, and that rally catapulted them into the top 25 rankings for the first time all year on Tuesday. The Commodores were ranked 23rd in the AP Top 25 and 24th in the Coaches' Poll. The honor makes James Franklin the first head coach in school history to end the season with a ranked team in two straight seasons.
Though Vandy started the season in the "also receiving votes" category of each poll, a rough 3-3 start made this team an afterthought for coaches and pollsters. The Commodores didn't defeat a BCS-conference team until week seven when they upset Georgia at home. They lost to a high-powered Texas A&M team the next week, but rallied afterwards to post five wins in a row, including victories over Florida and Tennessee. They most recently defeated 8-5 Houston in the BBVA Compass Bowl on January 4th.
That was a finish that drew parallels to 2012. That team, led offensively by Jordan Rodgers and Zac Stacy, won their final seven games after starting 2-4 to earn a spot at 23/20 in that year's final rankings. Since taking over in Nashville, Franklin has gone 12-3 after Halloween, suggesting that he knows how to rally his troops when they need wins the most.
That kind of momentum has made the Commodore coach a hot topic in NFL and NCAA coaching searches this year. There's no doubt that a second-straight year-end ranking will bolster Franklin's growing resume. He's been linked to vacancies at Penn State, the Cleveland Browns, and the Washington Redskins over the past week.