Vanderbilt Football: Examining the Commodores' Path to Bowl Eligibility
After defeating a vastly overmatched Massachusetts team, the Vanderbilt Commodores are now just two wins away from becoming bowl eligible for the second season in a row.
With the way the Commodores seem to be improving through head coach James Franklin and the recruits he's bringing in, hopefully this bowl eligibility conversation will become one that doesn't need to be made every season. Hopefully we'll come to expect invites every season.
Until that happens, the biggest goal for this team is to string together bowl appearances to build on those solid recruiting classes that have rolled in over the last two seasons.
Bowl projections from ESPN currently have the Commodores appearing in either the Music City Bowl or the Compass Bowl.
The Commodores are now sitting at 4-4 after surviving a brutal first half of the schedule. No other ranked teams remain on the schedule, and all of them are very winnable games for the Commodores.
It's actually very conceivable at this point for the Commodores to finish with eight wins, a win total that would've never been imagined just two seasons ago.
With that comes a little pressure to not take these teams for granted. One thing that can derail all of the momentum Franklin has built for this program is coming up short of a bowl berth.
If the Commodores are going to get to a second bowl game in two years under Franklin, they simply have to win two of their last four.
For that to happen, Franklin has to stop with the gimmick offense that almost led to a loss against a terrible Auburn team. There were numerous examples of this that you can see in the highlight reel.
A loss there would've drastically changed the outlook of this conversation
Next up is a Kentucky team so far down in the cellar they're probably forgetting what it's like to see daylight.
There's no reason the Commodores can't win this game comfortably, but when do the Commodores ever make anything look comfortable when playing an SEC opponent?
Since Kentucky's offense is so anemic right now, the defense of the Commodores should hold Kentucky down enough for the Commodores to get their third SEC victory of 2012.
This is a game that is critical for the Commodores to win to take pressure off themselves in their last three games.
Next up will be a trip to Oxford, Mississippi to take on a much-improved Ole Miss team.
The Rebels are gradually becoming a very balanced team, and the Commodores will have to play one of their best games of the year to possibly get to bowl eligibility with two games remaining.
A reeling Tennessee team will come to Nashville the following week, and it's still unclear if Derek Dooley will still be the head coach by this time.
If the Commodores are still battling for a bowl berth, then this could end up being a game of big proportions for the Commodores.
However, if they're already at that six-win plateau, then they could show up a lot looser and win this one easy.
Despite how bad the Vols are playing right now, their offense is still a potent one that will really challenge the Commodores defense.
Finally, the Commodores will end their season on the road against Wake Forest again. It's very possible that the Commodores could clinch bowl eligibility on Wake Forest's home turf for the second season in a row.
Nothing about Wake Forest suggests they can beat a Vanderbilt team that handled them in easy fashion last season.
It can be argued that this year's Vanderbilt team is much better than last year's, so this should be a win.
At the very least, the Commodores should get to six wins and make another bowl game.
With that said, the opportunity to do something monumental for this Vanderbilt program is up for the taking if they take care of business.
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