Vanderbilt Football: “Way Too Early” Predictions

Clark Lea’s first season as head coach of the Commodores will have plenty of big moments in fall 2021. Vanderbilt is blessed with seven home games and only five away from Vanderbilt Stadium. Let’s take a look at the schedule below, including early insight into opponents and my “way too early” W-L predictions:

Sep. 4, 2021 – East Tennessee State

The Commodores will welcome the Buccaneers to Dudley Field for Coach Lea’s first game as head coach of his alma mater. ETSU didn’t play in 2020 due to Covid-19 (like most FCS squads) and will be itching to upset an SEC team in their first game after a spring 2021 FCS schedule starting in February. Hopefully there will be a large crowd of Commodore fans (if permitted to attend games in 2021) helping kick off the Clark Lea era in the right way. It also kicks off a normal college football season that includes non-conference opponents, a welcome addition for a squad looking to build confidence early.

JT’s pick: W

Sep. 11, 2021 – at Colorado State

A trip out west early on will pit Vanderbilt vs Colorado State in Fort Collins on the 20th anniversary of 9/11. A young squad will have the opportunity to go into a solid Mountain West Conference team’s stadium and pick up a big road win. The Rams went 1-3 in 2020 and faced controversy about Coach Steve Addazio and his staff’s handling of the Covid situation.

JT’s pick: W

Sep. 18, 2021 – Stanford

Scheduling, when it comes to Vanderbilt football, is instrumental towards competing in a bowl game each year, as each non-conference opponent selected needs to be chosen as a complement to an already difficult 8-game SEC schedule. Although it’s a little early for my liking to have Coach Lea’s squad playing a quality out-of-conference opponent in Stanford (Pac-12), I am a big fan of this matchup for storylines and for fans. Two academic schools that have had solid athletic success in their respective power-5 conferences finally matched up will be very entertaining. Stanford has had more success on the gridiron than Vanderbilt (and has also historically received more investment in its football program), but it’s a dawn of a new era on West End. This will be a good one, and round one will be in Nashville. The Cardinal went 4-2 against their abbreviated Pac-12 schedule.

JT’s pick: L

Sep. 25, 2021 – Georgia

The Dawgs roll into Nashville after a solid, but disappointing, season in Athens. UGA went 8-2 in 2020 and have themselves a very good QB in JT Daniels. Georgia fans will also look forward to playing Vanderbilt after the perceived snub of the Commodores’ necessity of canceling their game against them in 2020 due to lack of healthy players. This will be a matchup of two very talented QBs as Ken Seals and VU take on the likely 2021 SEC-East Champs.

JT’s pick: L

Oct. 2, 2021 – UCONN

I’m a big fan of scheduling UCONN as a non-conference opponent. Having the Huskies on the schedule and playing them the first week of October is ideal. The FBS Independent school didn’t play in 2020 and have quite a challenging schedule in 2021. Look for the Commodores to gain momentum here before the gauntlet of SEC play begins.

JT’s pick: W

Oct. 9, 2021 – at Florida

A trip to the Swamp is never easy. Although the Gators lose Heisman-candidate Kyle Trask to the NFL, the Gators will be very talented after 2020’s 8-4 result. Florida’s Emory Jones should pick up where Trask left off.

JT’s pick: L

Oct. 16, 2021 – at South Carolina

I’ll be blunt: this game will be huge for both first-year coaches. Shane Beamer takes over a South Carolina squad that went 2-8 and will look to continue a long Gamecock winning streak over the Commodores, with Vanderbilt last defeating South Carolina in 2008. Vanderbilt is certainly in rebuilding mode entering 2021, but a win in Columbia would put Clark Lea’s program a couple of steps ahead of where most think they’ll be.

JT’s pick: L

Oct. 23, 2021 – Mississippi State

Mike Leach and his Bulldogs arrive in Nashville a season after the Commodores should have upset them in 2020. The air-raid offense had lukewarm results in the SEC after Leach’s squad faced implosion and occasional offensive ineptitude during a 4-7 campaign. With a year in the system, the Bulldog players will be on board with Leach’s vision and look to sink the Commodores. Will Coach Lea’s defensive mind and a seasoned Ken Seals offense get revenge on the Pirate? This game will be big for the Commodores’ bowl hopes

JT’s pick: W

Oct. 30, 2021 – Missouri

Another relatively winnable SEC game in Nashville. Mizzou head coach Eliah Drinkwitz had a solid debut in 2020 as the Tigers went 5-5. A brilliant offensive-mind with a roster ingrained in his systems will be a tough task for Vandy to stop in 2021. This QB matchup between young Connor Bazelak and Ken Seals should be full of fireworks.

JT’s pick: L

Nov. 6, 2021 – Bye Week

Nov. 13, 2021 – Kentucky

The Wildcat program under Mark Stoops has taken incredible strides towards competing for the SEC East. Senior Day in Nashville will be special for those Commodores who have been through so much during the past few years for the black and gold. Vandy did play UK tough in 2020, only losing 35-38. Can the Commodores get the win in 2021?

JT’s pick: L

Nov. 20, 2021 – at Ole Miss

Coach Lea vs the Lane Train in late November. The Rebels are no doubt one of the hotter programs in the country after Lane Kiffin’s first season in Oxford led to no shortage of offensive fireworks and comical tweets (5-5). Vanderbilt and Ole Miss have traditionally been competitive and has been an entertaining cross-divisional rivalry. Commodore Nation, I believe that Vanderbilt’s success against the Rebels will continue during the Lea era.

JT’s pick: L

Nov. 27, 2021 – at Tennessee

Both of the state of Tennessee’s SEC programs have new faces leading their programs and 2021’s matchup provides an opportunity for one to gain control of the state’s borders in year one. Tennessee has lost countless key players to the transfer portal and is likely to be hit with significant NCAA violations, so it’s likely to be a rough year on Rockytop in Coach Josh Heupel’s first year at the helm. If you’re a Vanderbilt fan, you can’t wait to see Coach Lea’s Commodores vs the Volunteers for the first time this fall.

JT’s pick: W

Way Too Early 2021 Prediction: 5-7 (2-6 SEC)


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