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What's Next for Vanderbilt: Something Resembling Hope

The season's not over yet.
The season's not over yet.

A look at the road ahead for the SEC's most hapless teams

Vanderbilt is not alone in its level of futility this year. At least Arkansas joins the Commodores as the only teams without wins against FBS opponents to this point. Of course, Vanderbilt also has the excuse of having played decent FBS opponents thus far instead of having a loss to a Sun Belt team. But still, 0-2 against teams from the same subdivision is 0-2 against teams from the same subdivision.

Then why does Vanderbilt's situation seem more hopeful? Perhaps because there's nothing so far in the season that screams "TIRE FIRE" quite as loudly as losing to Louisiana-Monroe does. Or maybe it's because Vanderbilt still seems like a team generally headed in the right direction, and this kind of struggle is not quite as disappointing in Nashville as in Fayetteville.

Remaining schedule: at Georgia, at Missouri, Florida, Auburn, Massachusetts, at Kentucky, at Ole Miss, Tennessee, at Wake Forest

What's wrong: As we've pointed out here a couple of times before -- the main misfortune for Vanderbilt so far has been the schedule. A preseason favorite to contend for the SEC East and a surprisingly strong B1G team on the road is not exactly an ideal set-up for anyone's first two games. The offensive numbers aren't great and the offensive line could do a better job of protecting the quarterback, but there aren't any fatal flaws apparent.

Rays of hope: The passing efficiency defense and total defense numbers are strong even for the SEC, and the Commodores are piling up almost 7.7 tackles for loss per game. And the turnover margin is relatively modest, so it's not like a regression to the mean is all that likely if the offense does get things going in the right direction.

Prognosis: Of the more hapless teams in the conference, Vanderbilt might be one of the best-positioned to go to a bowl. The UMass game should be a mortal lock for a win, and the trips to Kentucky, Ole Miss and Wake Forest all look winnable. Get the win against Auburn or manage an upset somewhere else on the calendar, and Vanderbilt should be headed for the postseason. But the one bad thing about the team's slow start is that the margin for error is basically gone.