This is simply an overview of each of the season's games; predictions come Thursday.
9.5 :: vs. Western Carolina
Granted, there are few "givens" when you're the Commodores. But this is as close to a slam-dunk win as Vandy's going to come. A win here, and they move on to the next challenge. A loss and the whole thing comes crashing down quick-like. To sum up: A loss against WCU might actually be bad enough to get Bobby Johnson fired.
9.12 :: at LSU
This is the first test game for Vanderbilt and perhaps LSU. If the Dores want to prove that 2008 wasn't a fluke, they have to at least put up a good fight against the Bengals -- and one that's not one of the classic "They're just Vandy" losses of the last 25 years. If LSU wants to prove 2008 was a fluke, they have to dominate what's expected to be a minimally competent Vanderbilt team. (For any Vanderbilt fans who take offense at that description, a clarification.)
9.19 :: vs. Mississippi State
Can Vanderbilt have a revenge game? If they can, it comes against the Western Division Bulldogs, who handed the Commodores their first loss in a 17-14 game in Starkville last year. I can't believe I'm saying this: Bobby Johnson might have this one circled on the calendar.
9.26 :: at Rice
The Owls actually won a bowl game last year. But if Vandy wants to prove they're ready for the big time, they have to beat C-USA teams.
10.3 :: vs. Ole Miss
This is the beginning of the flip side of last year's success. There are going to be a few angry teams that come calling this year, and the Rebels are the first. A sloppy, turnover-fueled upset at the hands of Vanderbilt is all that kept Ole Miss from claiming a 10-win season. It's also one of the reason the Commodores went to a bowl.
10.10 :: at Army
Reason No. 184 that Vandy is still Vandy: What other SEC team that you know would travel to Rice and Army in the same season? The Knights beat Louisiana Tech, Eastern Michigan and Tulane last year. Of course, they also lost to New Hampshire and Temple. And every other team on the schedule. A win here could keep bowl dreams alive for a few weeks. But it's the last easy game on the schedule.
10.17 :: vs. Georgia
By this point, the Dawgs should have their act together on offense. Meanwhile, Vandy will have not spent more than one week at home as part of a grueling travel schedule. But here the Dores are blessed with scheduling, in the middle of a five-week stretch for Georgia that goes Arizona State-LSU-Tennessee-Vanderbilt-Florida. Which of those do you think is easiest for the Dawgs to overlook?
10.24 :: at South Carolina
Steve Spurrier has this game circled, underlined and highlighted. And he might just have his players evacuate the field during all Vandy kicks just to make sure nothing like last year's Nashville Nightmare happens again. South Carolina and Spurrier are coming off a two-year losing streak to Vanderbilt. Please don't make me repeat that. The Ol Ball Coach is going to pull out all the stops in this one. Then again, he was supposed to do that last year.
10.31 :: vs. Georgia Tech
Johnson vs. Johnson, as Vanderbilt finally gets an out-of-conference FBS team to come to their house. If Vanderbilt is still in the hunt for a bowl game -- or perhaps even more so if they've clinched one -- this could end up drawing some national attention as a late-season interconference showdown. If the Dores already have seven losses, get ready for a noontime ESPN-labeled waxing.
11.7 :: at Florida
As most games for the Gators this year, the only question is how long the Golden Tebow will remain in the game.
11.14 :: vs. Kentucky
The Wildcats will be looking for revenge, sure, but will they be able to exact it. By this point in the season, we'll know whether this is the battle for 5th in the SEC East, which could add a little bit of drama to the contest. Not to mention that both teams could conceivably be stuck on five wins when this game begins with no better than a 50-50 shot at winning any other game on their schedule.
11.21 :: at Tennessee
Even in last year's 5-7 season, the Vols were able to take care of the Commodores. (Tennessee last lost in 2005.) This is a rivalry game, no doubt about it, and count on Boy Wonder to have said something to infuriate the people of Nashville by now. The question for Vanderbilt is: What are they going to do about it?
MONDAY: Vanderbilt Strives for a Sustainable Future
LATER TODAY: The Apprentice: SEC Coaches Finale
WEDNESDAY: The Depth Chart
FRIDAY: Feedback and Conclusions