Vanderbilt football could be in for a challenging season in 2018 after a handful of high-profile graduations, but oddsmakers like the Commodores’ chances of starting the season 1-0. The first round of lines for the upcoming college football season came out Monday, and BetOnline.AG has Derek Mason’s team listed as a six-point favorite against Middle Tennessee State in Vandy’s season opener:
That Week 1 matchup will pit two teams with rising quarterbacks against each other as Kyle Shurmur and Brent Stockstill butt heads. Shurmur has gotten the better of the Blue Raiders in each of the past two seasons, leading the ‘Dores to a 47-24 victory in 2016 and a 28-6 win last fall. He was especially proficient in 2017, throwing for 296 yards and three touchdowns to start the season off right.
While Shurmur will be a reliable piece of Mason’s puzzle, Vanderbilt has several questions to answer elsewhere on the depth chart. While Kalija Lipscomb and Jared Pinkney provide two explosive options at wide receiver and tight end, the graduation of players like Caleb Scott, C.J. Duncan, Trent Sherfield, and Nathan Marcus will put pressure on the team’s young targets to step up. More importantly, record-setting tailback Ralph Webb is gone, leaving a host of carries for Khari Blasingame, Jamauri Wakefield, and Illinois transfer Ke’Shawn Vaughn to clean up.
There are even more holes to fill on the defensive side of the ball. Oren Burks’ multi-faceted leadership made him a third-round pick for the Packers this April. Vanderbilt doesn’t just have to worry about replacing him, but also starters like Ryan White, Tre Herndon, Jay Woods, Jonathan Wynn, Nifae Lealao, and Taurean Ferguson. Mason’s strength is as a defensive innovator, and he may have to get creative to replace the long list of veteran talent that departed this spring.
Fortunately, rising young players like Dayo Odeyingbo, Colin Anderson, and Dimitri Moore will be joined by blue chip recruits Alston Orji and Brendon Harris to keep the Commodores afloat this fall.
The good news is bookmakers see Vanderbilt as a threat in 2018. The bad news is it’s just against a Conference-USA team, and it’s just as a six-point favorite at home. That’s something to build on, at least.