1955. 1974. 1982. 2008.
It does not take very long to run through the bowl history of the Vanderbilt football program. However, James Franklin is not interested in the past. The energetic new boss of the Commodores has preached to his team that this is 2011, and he is out to change the culture of Vanderbilt on the gridiron. The beginning of the Franklin era has been promising, with the ‘Dores standing at 3-0 after punching Ole Miss in the mouth – 30-7 – on Saturday. VU leads the nation in interceptions with 10, and the defense has returned one pilfer for a touchdown in all three games. The schedule is always brutal in the SEC, but the Commodores look to be contenders for a fifth-ever postseason berth.
Will Vanderbilt make a bowl game?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I like what James Franklin is doing at Vanderbilt so far. The Commodores are off to a 3-0 start and have been recruiting very well. However, I think Vanderbilt’s bowl hopes will fall just short. The schedule is going to get a lot tougher over the next couple of weeks, as the Commodores take on South Carolina, Alabama and Georgia. Army and Kentucky would appear to be sure wins, which gets Vanderbilt to five. However, I’m having trouble finding a sixth win on the schedule. Wake Forest is certainly winnable, but the Demon Deacons appear to be a much-improved team. Pulling off an upset against Tennessee or Georgia isn’t out of the question, but considering the offensive question marks surrounding Vanderbilt, I think it will fall just short of bowl eligibility.
Vanderbilt is off to a great start under first-year coach James Franklin, with wins over Ole Miss, Connecticut and Elon. If the Commodores are still standing after back-to-back brutal road trips to South Carolina (Sept. 24) and Alabama (Oct. 8), Coach Franklin has a realistic chance to lead VU to its first bowl berth since 2008 and only the school’s second since 1982. The home schedule is favorable, with winnable matchups against Army and Kentucky as well as vulnerable Georgia and Arkansas. Road games at Florida and at Tennessee will be tough. But if Jay Cutler’s alma mater is one win away heading into the season-finale at Wake Forest, expect the 'Dores to do their best impression of junior cornerback Trey Wilson (3 INTs for 103 yards and 2 TDs) and take it to the house with a bowl berth.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I can easily see Vanderbilt making a bowl game, but I’ll say the Commodores finish just short at 5-7. Coach Franklin does not want to dwell on the past, but there have been several good starts on West End that faded quickly. The energy that the new VU staff has instilled in the team is evident, but I still want to see how the Black and Gold respond to the black-and-blue portion of their league schedule. Running backs Zac Stacy and Jerron Seymour have looked solid so far, and the Commodores have one of the better secondaries in the SEC. To get to the postseason, Franklin will need quarterback Larry Smith to make some plays in the passing game and the front seven to not get worn down during the SEC grind. If the ‘Dores can win three out of the following four – Army, Kentucky, Tennessee and Wake Forest – they will go bowling and start an exciting new era. I see the Commodores falling a game short in 2011, but the program is headed in the right direction.