Vanderbilt will enter the 2013 season as a ranked team. That's not coming from some optimistic soul in Nashville - it's according to no less an authority than Sports Illustrated.
The Commodores came in at #23 in the long-running magazine's preseason poll. That's good enough to put them in the top half of the SEC, behind six other programs. Alabama, Texas A&M, Florida, LSU, Georgia, and South Carolina all were projected to have better seasons than James Franklin's team.
Vanderbilt finished last in the SEC in total defense in 2010, the year before James Franklin's arrival. Since, the fiery coach has elevated the unit to sixth in '11 and fifth last year, when the Commodores held SEC opponents to 250.0 yards -- and 10.9 points -- per game. They're likely to be as stingy this year. Six starters return, including key contributors such as senior defensive end Walker May, senior linebacker Chase Garnham and senior corner Andre Hal. Jordan Matthews led the SEC in 2012 with 94 catches, and Vandy is at its deepest along the offensive line, with senior left tackle Wesley Johnson (a three-year starter who has never been flagged for holding), junior center Joe Townsend and junior right tackle Andrew Bridges.- Zac Ellis
This is a solid departure from the USA Today Coaches' Poll, which had the 'Dores rated 34th in the country. That metric put Vandy behind seven other conference rivals, including Ole Miss - their game one opponent. Here's how Vanderbilt's schedule will break down in 2013, according to opponent rank:
|Opponent||SI Ranking||Coaches' Ranking|
Vanderbilt will kick off its season in 15 days when they host Ole Miss under the lights at Dudley Field.