Derek Mason has the Vanderbilt Commodores trending in the right direction, and bettors have taken notice.
Bovada released its over/under for victories in 2016, and the baseline has the 'Dores headed back to the postseason for the first time since 2013.
2016 Regular Season Wins - Vanderbilt Commodores
A wager on a seven win (or more) season would net you a $140 return on a $100 bet. The returns aren't as good if you think Vanderbilt will stumble; you'd have to place $180 down just to win $100 if the team wins five games or fewer. Six wins means you'd get your money back.
For reference, last year's over/under figure was set at three victories.
That's a promising start to a season where the Commodore offense will look to match the success of Mason's defensive unit. Vanderbilt ranked in the top 25 in scoring defense and in the top 10 when it came to squashing third down conversions last season. With many key starters returning, they'll need to grind down offenses to give a still-rebuilding offense the opportunities it needs to win.
Vanderbilt will be led by All-SEC tailback Ralph Webb, but the team's success could hinge on whether its passing game can get off the ground in 2016. Sophomore Kyle Shurmur will step in at quarterback after playing his way into the role as a true freshman last fall. If he can show solid growth and give the 'Dores enough of an aerial threat to create first downs and clear space for Webb to operate, then this team should be able to exceed bettors' expectations.
Of course, Vandy will also benefit from what looks like a down year in the SEC East. Kentucky, Missouri, and South Carolina are all primed for disappointing seasons. Georgia has to break in a new coach, which could lead to struggles no matter how talented its roster is. Florida can't hold on to any of its quarterbacks. Tennessee is the de facto favorite to win the division, but is still coached by Butch Jones; a man who somehow made Cincinnati fandom more depressing than the fact most of those fans had to live in Ohio.
Factor that in with a relatively light non-conference schedule, and you can see why gamblers are bullish on the Commodores even without an established quarterback. 2016 is primed to be a big season for Vanderbilt, and if Derek Mason can't capitalize it could signal the end of his coaching career in Nashville. Fortunately, the odds are in his favor as the season approaches.