SEC Football: Best and Worst-Case Scenario for Every Team in 2015

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Oct 11, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; Vanderbilt Commodores running back Ralph Webb (26) runs for a first down during the first half against the Charleston Southern Buccaneers at Vanderbilt Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, last year was dreadful for the Vanderbilt football program, but the Commodores haven’t completely forgotten how to win. After all, former head coach James Franklin led the team to bowl games in a school record three consecutive seasons from 2011-13, including back-to-back nine-win seasons (and a winning record in SEC play) in his final two years in Nashville.

Related: 2015 SEC Football Preseason Power Rankings

Franklin is gone, of course, but second-year head coach Derek Mason has great potential. Mason has experience coaching on both sides of the football but made his biggest impact as the defensive coordinator at Stanford, including the 2012 and 2013 Pac-12 Championship teams. With one year of head coaching experience in the rearview mirror, and the benefit of learning from his first season mistakes, Mason can get the Commodores headed in the right direction this season.

Running back Ralph Webb ran for 912 yards as a redshirt freshman last season and could be even better in 2015. Vandy also returns five other starters on offense, including All-SEC caliber tight end Steven Scheu. VU should be even better on defense with nine starters returning, including the six top tacklers from last season.

Looking at the schedule, Vanderbilt has four winnable non-conference games and hosts fellow SEC East underdog Kentucky in November. That puts five wins very much in reach. With just one more upset – perhaps a victory over Missouri October 24 – Mason can lead the ‘Dores back to the postseason.

Vanderbilt’s Best-Case Scenario: Last season wasn’t as bad as it seemed, and the ‘Dores are competitive enough to sneak into a bowl game

Next: Worst-Case Scenario: Vanderbilt