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Vanderbilt 2017 Season Predictions

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We Give Three takes. Optimistic/Pessimistic/Realistic

Tennessee v Vanderbilt Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

The new season has officially begun. Within a few days we get our first look at what Coach Mason can do with an entire squad of players that have been recruited for and grew up in his system. There are no more excuses - this is the year to show what his system can do. Coach Mason has been saying all offseason about how his men are ready, pointing to this being an upperclassmen sport. He’s not wrong there, and after the way the 2016 season ended, we have good reasons to be optimistic.

A tough schedule lies ahead of the Commodores. Will Vanderbilt crash and burn? Will we pull out a miracle season? Will we have a competent season, simply improving a bit off last year? We start our journey Saturday against MTSU. However, your AoG staff will not pass up an opportunity to embarass ourselves. Presenting our predictions for the 2017 season!

We provide to you three different universes - an optimisitc, a pessimistic and a “realistic”. You may wonder why we’re not just going with one prediction and sticking with it. Well, if you’re reading this, chances are you’re familiar with Vanderbilt Football. As always this team has a lot of potential for success and a lot of potential for failure. So why not cover the whole gamut?

Pessimistic Predictions

Everything goes to hell

VandyTigerPhD: We lose Saturday, and it doesn’t really matter how. Our Vandyboys, not to be immediately crushed by such a start, get some confidence back against Bama A&M... only to get crushed by KSU. We then waltz into the three weeks of death to be a lowly 1-5 in the Grove. We proceed to lost to a battered and rudderless Mississippi team, and Muschamp once again Muschamps his way to an undeserved win. At this point no one, not even the team cares as the University has doubled down on not wanting to support football, announcing the move off campus. The lone fan that shows up to the WKU game gets to watch us lose that game too. We end the season 1-11, and Zeppos takes the opportunity to claim how he sees life being so much better without footbaw on campus.

VandyImport: Everything falls apart when someone vital gets hurt against MTSU. With that, the wheels come off. Fourth quarter flops against K-State and Ole Miss bookend a five week winless stretch, and at 1-6 at the bye, everything goes to hell when Chancellor Zeppos announces the stadium share at the fairgrounds. Demoralized fans tune out, Mason’s best efforts can’t rally the squad, and the Dores limp out of Neyland Stadium with a bad loss to finish a 3-9 season as the SEC media chortles “SAME OLD VANDY” and speculates on whether Mason will accept the DC job at Alabama in the offseason.

Christian D’Andrea: Kyle Shurmur goes down with a season-ending injury in Game 1, or worse, regresses to freshman year Kyle Shurmur. The Vandy defense drops from good to average without Zach Cunningham playing superhero in the middle, and the offense goes on to lose a string of 20-7 games. Andy Ludwig, as is his wont to do, leaves after just a few years for greener pastures, leaving Derek Mason scrambling for a replacement.

He finds an old friend: Karl Dorrell.

Tom Stephenson: You’re asking me to be pessimistic? All right. Either Kyle Shurmur is as ineffective as he looked early last season, or he’s hurt. Or maybe Ralph Webb is hurt. The defense backslides from last season, sprinkle in a little bad luck and a schedule that features maybe one game that’s an automatic win along with a bunch of tossups, and you’re looking at 2-10. Or maybe 3-9. And winless in the SEC.

Oh yeah, and we move the football team off campus.

Optimistic Predictions

Sunshine lollipops and rainbows

VandyTigerPhD: We beat Middle, and we beat ‘em good. We build on the momentum trying out some new schemes against Bama A&M, and build on that to go 3-0 in our game against Bama. We lose by two scores to Bama, but one is late in the game. We beat BOTH UF and UGA, finally overcoming those very close games against Florida we’ve had the last two years. We are 5-1 heading into the Grove, and I get to get super drunk celebrating being bowl eligible in front of crying Rebs (love ya Rebs). Chicken Curse cannot save Cocky at home as we advance to 6-1, but we manage to drop one of WKU/KU/Mizzou down the stretch (we have to even in a sunshine Universe, do not deny it!). Nonetheless we’re 8-2 heading into Knoxville and get earn our high level consolation bowl game with a 9-2 season.

VandyImport: Nobody can talk about the resounding thumping of Tennessee. They’re still screaming about how That Call Against Bama. Ralph Webb broke the plane, the camera clearly captured it, but the refs said we were short on 4th and goal, and we lost by 4 instead of beating Alabama for the first time since 1984. And because the team lost at Florida the following week, we lost the SEC East on the tiebreaker and didn’t get a rematch with the #1 team in the country in Atlanta. Instead, we have to settle for the first 10-win season in school history and the thrill of seeing Ralph Webb on stage in New York and the spectacle of the Citrus Bowl, as Import gets bodily hauled out of the Magic Kingdom screaming at Eeyore “SAY SAME OLD VANDY ONE MORE TIME, YOU JACKASS, I DARE YOU, I DOUBLE DARE YOU”.

Christian D’Andrea: Vandy wrecks MTSU and Alabama A&M before winning a hard-fought victory against Kansas State before a showdown of undefeated against Alabama. The Crimson Tide win that ballgame, but the Commodores keep it close in a game they were expected to get smeared into the turf, becoming the SEC’s Conor McGregor in the process. Ralph Webb finds his extra gear and turns his seven-yard runs into 20-yard bursts, leading the team to wins over Georgia, Ole Miss, and Western Kentucky. Oren Burks fulfills his destiny as Zach Cunningham’s replacement, and a spirited Vandy D teams with a growing Kyle Shurmur in wins over Kentucky and Missouri.

Then, the Commodores beat Tennessee so hard Neyland Stadium is reduced to a smoking crater, its blight on the earth matching the overall contributions of the university that birthed it.

Vanderbilt, at 11-1 goes to the SEC Championship Game for a rematch against ‘Bama. Shurmur’s triple-overtime wheel route to Webb caps off the greatest game in league history. The ‘Dores cruise to the national title from there.

Tom Stephenson: What I wrote above about the schedule featuring a bunch of tossups? That works both ways, because if the offense is better and the defense doesn’t backslide, there’s really only one game that I think we have no chance in hell at winning. Now I don’t think we’ll skate through to an 11-1 regular season -- but 9-3? That’s possible, yeah. And 9-3 might even make us a contender in the SEC East. Can you imagine that November 11 game against Kentucky having implications in the East title race? Can you imagine what the world is like when you’re on mushrooms?

Realistic Predictions

A balanced approach to the HMS Commodore

VandyTigerPhD: Have to agree with the Import here. MTSU sets the tone for everything. It’s possibly the most important game on the schedule. That run of Bama-UF-UGA is going to be rough, and we need to be 2-1 going into it. With a little luck, we can be 3-0 going into it. Given how we’ve played McElwain’s Gators and Smart’s Bulldogs, we could sincerely win both games. It’s reasonable to expect a split, but it’s also reasonable to expect us to lose both. So we head into a winnable game in the Grove, with anything between 2-4 and 4-2 being realistic. The Rebs are not going to be helpless, even with all their drama. We should win that though, games have trended in our favor the final three years of Freeze’s reign there: (41-3 L; 27-16 L; 38-17 W). It’s hard to say we should win USC. We’ve had so many close games with them in recent years, but the last time we beat them BoJo was still our Coach. I know, I was shocked too. I hate playing WKU, can we stop doing that? Why do we do this to ourselves? One score game which means a coin flip. So at this point we’re talking between 2-7 and 6-3 before our final SEC stretch. Again we face UK and Mizzou, both of which we should beat, but I’m going to play it safe and call a split. Then Knoxville, which sorry y’all, I see as a loss. So we’re left with a team that could range from 3-9 and 7-5. I’m going to cut the difference saying we go 5-7, because there’s too many chances for SOV moments here, too many coin flips. This team could be another disappointment, but it can also turn out to be one of the greatest ever. Which is why so much of Mason’s future is not dependent on the W/L so much as how we do with a big boy schedule.

VandyImport: I really do think that MTSU sets the tone for everything. Win it and we’re on our way, lose it and it’s going to be tough to carry momentum through that early Amen Corner. And if we get the bombshell in the off week about the stadium and it’s unsatisfactory, that’s a complete wild card. I’m going to say 6-6 again just because this is a tougher plate than last year but I think the team will continue to improve. And I wouldn’t object to being fished out of the EPCOT lagoon if it comes to that.

Christian D’Andrea. Shurmur makes some strides, Webb remains a beast, and the Vanderbilt defense ebbs and flows after replacing Cunningham’s play with contributions from Burks, Nifae Lealao, and a deep and talented secondary. The ‘Dores handle MTSU, Alabama A&M, and Kansas State to start 3-0, then drop their next three. They beat a discombobulated Ole Miss, lose at a rising South Carolina, then finish strong with home wins against WKU, Kentucky, and Missouri. That puts them at 7-4 before the biggest game of the season, a showdown in Knoxville.

Then, the Commodores beat Tennessee so hard Neyland Stadium is reduced to a smoking crater, its blight on the earth matching the overall contributions of the university that birthed it.

Book it.

Tom Stephenson: You and I both know that you don’t come here for realism. But if you want realistic, here goes.

Vanderbilt opens the season by knocking off MTSU by a touchdown in Murfreesboro. After a breather against Alabama A&M, Vanderbilt enters the five-game stretch of death — only they do way better against it than some commentators think. They sneak by Kansas State, keep it respectable against Alabama and Florida, before stunning Georgia for the second year in a row and rolling into Oxford and blowing the Admiral Ackbars out.

Then the Commodores go down to Columbia, South Carolina, and lose to the Game Penises, because of course they do. But that’s followed by three straight wins over Western Kentucky, Kentucky, and Missouri to run the record to 8-3, 4-3 in the SEC, and the Commodores head to Knoxville with a real shot at winning the East on tiebreakers.

Okay, okay, we let Butch Jones stay another year with a close loss in Knoxville. But we’ll take 8-4, right? Right?