9. Vanderbilt Makes a Bowl Game
Can Vanderbilt improve off of their 5-7 record a year ago to earn their first trip to a bowl game since 2018? I believe so. Vandy *should* win all three of their non-conference games against Hawaii, Alabama A&M, and UNLV. That leaves the Commodores tasked with winning three other games to qualify for their first bowl game under Clark Lea.
The other non-conference game for Vanderbilt is Wake Forest. That is obviously the toughest non-conference game (Wake went 8-5 and beat Vandy by 20 last year), but with Sam Hartman transferring from Wake to Notre Dame, the door opens up a little bit for Vandy to try and go 4-0 in non-conference play. Vanderbilt drew Auburn and Ole Miss out of the West. While that’s not exactly an easy pair of games, Vandy avoided both Alabama and LSU (the top two finishers in the West a year ago, and the projected top two finishers again this year). They also drew Auburn in Nashville, which is a boost.
The Commodores then have their regular East Division opponents. Georgia and Tennessee are the top two here, and a trip to Columbia against South Carolina and the Swamp against Florida will be difficult. However, Vanderbilt gets Missouri and Kentucky at home. Those two will likely be crucial games for Vandy to reach six wins.
With a talented quarterback in AJ Swann returning, and one of the SEC’s top receivers returning in Will Sheppard, Vandy might need those two to score a good amount of points and lead the team to a bowl game after going 5-7 and ending their SEC win drought in 2022.
10. The SEC has ten players run for 1,000 yards
Yes, this feels like a lot (and it is). For reference, only four players ran for 1,000 yards in 2022. However, hear me out. I already predicted that I think Jayden Daniels will run for 1,000. Quinshon Judkins and Rocket Sanders both ran for over 1,400 yards last year and feel like extremely safe bets to eclipse 1K again (barring injury).
I also believe that Jarquez Hunter (who no longer will have to split carries with Tank Bigsby) will also go over 1,000 yards. Jase McClellan also goes from a #2 back with over 600 yards to the #1 guy in Tuscaloosa. If those five hit 1,000 yards rushing, that means that out of Ray Davis (who also hit a 1,000 last year at Vandy before transferring to Kentucky), and whoever emerges as the #1 RB at Georgia (between Kendall Milton and Daijun Edwards), Tennessee’s (Jaylen Wright and Jabari Small), Florida (Trevor Etienne and Montrell Johnson), and LSU (Josh Williams, Noah Cain, or John Emery). Plus the group of Jo’quavious Marks at Mississippi State, Cody Schrader at Missouri, and Rueben Owens at Texas A&M that the SEC needs five more to hit 1,000. I believe that five of that group will hit 1,000.
It’s also possible that another QB outside of Jayden Daniels (such as KJ Jefferson, Jaxson Dart, Jalen Milroe, Brady Cook, or Robby Ashford) also hits 1,000. I believe that will happen this season and the SEC will end up with a whopping ten players with 1,000 rushing yards, an impressive feat.