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Vanderbilt's Schedule Seems Made for the Postseason. And Maybe Nothing Else | SEC 2013

The path to a third straight bowl game for the Commodores seems relatively clear. But much beyond that requires an almost flawless season

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

This is an overview. Predictions come later.

8.29.13 | OLE MISS
9.7.13 | AUSTIN PEAY
9.14.13 | at SOUTH CAROLINA
9.21.13 | at UMASS
9.28.13 | UAB

Why is Vanderbilt going to UMass? No, it's not a rhetorical question -- why would any self-respecting SEC team go to a MAC team's stadium? At least when Missouri visited UCF last year, it was a C-USA team, and when South Carolina visits the Knights this year, they will be in the Big East American Athletic Conference. Going to a MAC team's stadium, on the other hand, just invites #MACtion. By the way, does it strike anyone else as jarring to think of Massachusetts as "Mid-American"? In any case, this is not the toughest stretch on Vanderbilt's schedule -- more on that in just a moment -- but it does include one of the more difficult opening three-game sets in the conference: Taking on the projected surprise team of 2013, getting a rest against Austin Peay and then going on the road to face a team that is 13-1 at home over the last two seasons and hasn't lost in its stadium since October 2011. It could always be worse, but only if the Patriots were dropped in here as well.

10.5.13 | MISSOURI
10.19.13 | GEORGIA
10.26.13 | at TEXAS A&M

This includes the start of the worst stretch for the Commodores. The last and only time Vanderbilt and Mizzou played each other in Nashville, the game ended in a tie. But that's the easiest game Vanderbilt has from the beginning of October until mid-November. Georgia comes to Nashville two weeks later, followed by a trip to College Station to take on Texas A&M. The Commodores and the Aggies have never met in football before. Really, the Commodores will be in prime position for a bowl game if they can defeat Missouri here. That would likely give them four or five wins before heading into a stretch run with two imminently winnable games and another potential victory on the horizon.

11.9.13 | at FLORIDA
11.16.13 | KENTUCKY
11.23.13 | at TENNESSEE
11.30.13 | WAKE FOREST

That potential victory will not be at Florida. Vanderbilt is 3-31-1 in the last 35 games against the Gators, with the last win coming in 1988. The Commodores haven't won in Gainesville since they did so the first time the teams met, in 1945; the last victory in Florida was in 1949. (They did earn a tie in Gainesville in 1958.) Vanderbilt has come close a couple times in the years since, but for now Florida seems to have their number. The next three games are probably going to decide just how good this Vanderbilt team is. If they run the table against those three, an eight- or nine-win season (counting the bowl game) could be on the table. Talk of 10 wins, which would have seemed ridiculous last year, still seems a bit out there, requiring a major upset against one of the Big Three in the SEC East -- two of whom will host the Commodores this year. In any case, potential wins against Kentucky and Wake Forest in Nashville should secure a postseason berth.