We reviewed five preseason magazines — Athlon, ESPN, Lindy’s, Phil Steele and The Sporting News — and broke down their team-by-team predictions.
Monday, we examine Vanderbilt. Here is what’s being said about the Commodores:
Athlon (5th in SEC East — no bowl): “To take the next step — return to a bowl game for the first time since 2013 — Vanderbilt will need to improve significantly on offense.”
Phil Steele (6th in SEC East — no bowl): “Most of the winnable games are on the road. This is an experienced squad with 15 returning starters and they are capable of contending for a bowl.”
Sporting News (7th in SEC East — no bowl): “What passes for progress at Vandy — going 4-8 overall and 2-6 in SEC play — wouldn’t pass for anything but a disaster at most SEC schools. There’s more patience at scholarly Vanderbilt, of course, but with back-to-back nine-win campaigns under former coach James Franklin, the Commodores’ fans acquired a taste of the good life … Finding a productive quarterback is the primary mission.”
Lindy’s (7th in SEC East — no bowl): “The defense … gives VU a shot at a bowl, but it must force turnovers and create short fields, given the offensive limitations.”
ESPN (7th in SEC East — no bowl): “The defense … is starting to resemble a Mason-led unit, and the offense seems to have finally found some stability under center. Don’t look now, but Vanderbilt might just be bowl eligible in 2016.”
All-American selections: Zach Cunningham (2nd – Lindy’s), Cunningham (2nd – Athlon), Cunningham (4th – Phil Steele)
Lindy’s All-SEC: Zach Cunningham (1st), Ralph Webb (2nd), Andrew Jelks (2nd)
Phil Steele All-SEC: Cunningham (2nd), Oreb Burks (3rd), Webb (4th)
- ESPN spoke to an anonymous SEC offensive coach about Cunningham: “You may know where he’s at, but how you’re going to get to him becomes a whole different story. He tends to play a step ahead of where your guys are going.”
- ESPN’s most likely game to win (based on the Football Power Index): Tennessee State (98 percent). Least likely: at Georgia (10 percent)
- Lindy’s found that Vanderbilt is No. 2 in the country at covering gambling spreads in the last five years, going 37-21 for a 63.8 percent success rate. Kansas State (39-20, 66.1 percent) is No. 1.
- Athlon said quarterback Kyle Shurmur “boasts the kind of prototypical size (6-foot-4, 223 pounds) and tools that are guaranteed to grab NFL scouts’ attention.”
- Athlon spoke to an anonymous coach that had high praise for Mason: “I’m not exaggerating when I say this: Derek Mason is as good of a defensive coach as there is in the world. The fronts they give you are just wacky. They’ll play every front that exists.”
- Phil Steele writes the Commodores had the nation’s 21st-toughest schedule last season, and the fifth-toughest among SEC teams. This year, he projects Vanderbilt’s schedule as the 44th-toughest in the country.
- Steele writes Vanderbilt has the third-most returning talent in the SEC (based on a customized scoring system), and the 36th most in the country.
Tuesday: Mississippi State