1. Vanderbilt has a 1,000 yard rusher
Vanderbilt fans were spoiled by Zac Stacy. In 2010 and 2011 the powerful and wildly consistent rusher put up back to back 1,000 rushing seasons which were the catalyst for a Vandy offense which was very good when all the parts were working together. Since then, due to a combination of personnel and scheme, the rushing attack has fallen away. Expect that to change next fall when new offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig gets his hands of Ralph Webb and Dallas Rivers, and just as importantly the ‘Dores offensive line. Ludwig just saw his feature back Melvin Gordon rush for an astonishing 2587 yards and 29 touchdowns. That total is just less than double the rushing output of the ENTIRE Vanderbilt team in 2014. There are some very happy tailbacks in Nashville right now.
2. Johnny McCrary gets the most snaps at quarterback
Call this a hunch based as much on Derek Mason’s hiring of Ludwig as much as anything else. Wisconsin made it all the way to the Big Ten title game on the back of a monster rushing attack and very little play from their quarterback. What is notable though is that quarterback Joel Stave was in no way asked to run the ball. Ever. Stave finished the season averaging ONE rushing attempt per game. It is not like Stave was lighting it up from the pocket either. Truth be told McCrary even at his current level is a better quarterback than anything Ludwig worked with this year in Madison. Add in a full offseason program and it just makes sense that the McCrary will take the Vandy quarterbacking job and run with it.
3. Derek Mason will get his first SEC win
The last time that Vanderbilt went winless in the SEC in back to back seasons was in the dark era of 2001-02. Depending on your opinion of the staying power of Ole Miss, the schedule still avoids the biggest hitters from the SEC West (Alabama, LSU, Auburn), with a still somewhat vulnerable Texas A&M team being the additional crossover game next fall. The date to circle though is the November 14th game with Kentucky in Nashville. If the ‘Dores are still looking for an SEC win by that point in the season then this game becomes massive for the future of Derek Mason.
4. The ‘Dores will not go bowling in 2015
It is hard to see six wins on the schedule given how disappointing, and over matched, the ‘Dores were at times in 2014. The talent and athleticism is definitely there, but you feel the team will be much better, and much more likely to rise up again, in time for the 2016 season. Having a winning record in non-conference games (maybe 3-1 with a loss at Houston) and picking up a couple of SEC wins (Kentucky and South Carolina) would give the team the momentum it needs to go bowling in 2016.
5. The Vandy defense will give up less than 28 points per game
The whole point of hiring Derek Mason was to bring in an enthusiastic coach from a power five school with high academic standards who was strong on one side of the ball. Mason’s forte at Stanford was his defense, a defense which was able to shut down the likes of Oregon and USC, during some very successful Pac-12 runs. Obviously watching the Vandy defense this year you would have had trouble seeing that pedigree.
Mason’s defensive unit finished 105th in the country in points allowed giving up a terrible 34.5 points per game. The results though were much worse at the beginning of the year, when the team was transitioning schemes and when Mason was learning how to be an effective head coach. During the second half of the season the unit picked up its play and now there are a number of young, energetic returners who will take this unit to the next level. If the defense can give up 28ish points per game they will be right in the middle of the pack and the ‘Dores will be in a much better position to win.
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