5. Vanderbilt Commodores
vs. Middle Tennessee State, Sept. 2, 8:00 p.m. ET
The Vanderbilt Commodores are the early favorite when they face the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders in their season opener. The Commodores should be on upset alert, at least from an SEC standpoint, when they face the Blue Raiders.
The Commodores will have the task of stopping wide receiver Richie James. James caught 105 receptions for 1,625 receiving yards and 12 receiving touchdowns in 2016. He caught 14 receptions for 183 receiving yards and a touchdown in last year’s contest. Vanderbilt won that game 47-24, however, star power may be on Middle Tennessee’s side here.
James had nine games in the 2016 where he had at least 100 receiving yards. He caught 16 receptions for 223 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in a 44-43 loss.
James enters his junior season looking to do more damage against the Commodores. Behind him are two other wide receivers Ty Lee and Patrick Smith also. Lee had 699 receiving yards, nine receiving touchdowns and Smith had 332 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns.
Vanderbilt returns 15 total starters themselves, but Week 1 is where teams are fresh and ready to show off their experience. The SEC could take some heat here if the Commodores lose, so this is one game to keep an eye on.