Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Figuring Out When a Team Has Arrived // SEC 2012: The New SEC

James Franklin (VU) is angry about our only giving him a 3-5 SEC record for this season.

Finishing an effort to catch up after summer travels

Ahem. So we jumped the gun a little bit on Mississippi State last year. And by "we," I mean that I jumped the gun a little bit on Mississippi State last year. Year2 went off and made his own prediction that actually came a lot closer to reality than my whole "Mississippi State will best Arkansas" thing. (And yes, "best" was intentional. It can be used as a verb.)

Which means that I'm going to try to be a little bit more careful this year on the two teams that could be very good but might not crack the top halves of their respective divisions: Mississippi State (again) and Vanderbilt. Both look geared to make bowl runs -- perhaps even with a slight margin for error -- but both are also subject to the same sorts of injury and depth issues that can affect teams still trying to build their programs. Things could still go very, very wrong.

For Vanderbilt, it depends almost entirely on whether the offense clicks. If it does, then the defense might be just good enough to allow the Commodores to take care of what's actually a pretty favorable schedule. Two of the SEC road games are against teams that Vanderbilt can probably beat anyway, and Tennessee has to travel to Nashville this season. Throw in Presbyterian College and UMass on the schedule, and it's not hard to see how the Dores can get to six or seven wins.

Things might be even better for Mississippi State. They're probably not going to beat any of the top four teams in the division, but that still gives them three intradivision wins and a likely victory against Kentucky. Throw in four delectable nonconference cupcakes and you've got an eight-win season in the making. Joker Phillips, eat your heart out.

As for the possible upsets: South Carolina going to Vanderbilt at the beginning of the year with a bit of confidence around the Gamecocks doesn't exactly bring back fond memories. And if the Dores can win that game ... well, it won't take long to figure out if it's significant or not. Games at Georgia, at Missouri and against Florida will decide whether Vanderbilt's a pretender or contender. But if VU can beat South Carolina, and then win two of those three games -- let's just remember we're talking about Vanderbilt, mkay?

And, yes, we're going with Arkansas as the possible upset for Mississippi State. There are reasons for that -- the Hogs have to travel to South Carolina the week before for their last clash with the Gamecocks as interdivision rivals, and the game against LSU comes the week after that. Or maybe I'll just never learn my lesson and take it slow when it comes to teams that are trying to climb one of the steepest ladders in college football.

VANDERBILT

Place: 5th in the SEC East
Record: 7-5, 3-5 SEC
Could be: 4-8 to 9-3
Best chance for an upset: SOUTH CAROLINA
Bowl: BBVA COMPASS

8.30.12 | SOUTH CAROLINA | POSSIBLE LOSS
9.8.12 | at NORTHWESTERN | POSSIBLE WIN
9.15.12 | PRESBYTERIAN COLLEGE | WIN
9.22.12 | at GEORGIA | PROBABLE LOSS
10.6.12 | at MISSOURI | PROBABLE LOSS
10.13.12 | FLORIDA | POSSIBLE LOSS
10.20.12 | AUBURN | POSSIBLE LOSS
10.27.12 | UMASS | WIN
11.3.12 | at KENTUCKY | POSSIBLE WIN
11.10.12 | at OLE MISS | POSSIBLE WIN
11.17.12 | TENNESSEE | POSSIBLE WIN
11.24.12 | at WAKE FOREST | POSSIBLE WIN

MISSISSIPPI STATE

Place: 5th in the SEC West
Record: 8-4, 4-4 SEC
Could be: 6-6 to 9-3
Best chance for an upset: ARKANSAS
Bowl: LIBERTY

9.1.12 | JACKSON STATE | WIN
9.8.12 | AUBURN | POSSIBLE LOSS
9.15.12 | at TROY | PROBABLE WIN
9.22.12 | SOUTH ALABAMA | WIN
10.6.12 | at KENTUCKY | POSSIBLE WIN
10.13.12 | TENNESSEE | POSSIBLE WIN
10.20.12 | MIDDLE TENNESSEE | LIKELY WIN
10.27.12 | at ALABAMA | LIKELY LOSS
11.3.12 | TEXAS A&M | POSSIBLE WIN
11.10.12 | at LSU | LIKELY LOSS
11.17.12 | ARKANSAS | PROBABLE LOSS
11.24.12 | at OLE MISS | POSSIBLE WIN

Key (from least likely to win to most): Loss, Likely Loss, Probable Loss, Possible Loss, Possible Win, Probable Win, Likely Win, Win

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