In the era of the College Football Playoff, one loss won’t ruin your season.
But go on a bad run, and you’re done.
With that in mind, we’re examining the most challenging stretch of games for all 14 teams in the SEC.
Next up in our series is Vanderbilt.
Toughest stretch: Sept. 23-Oct.14
Derek Mason and his Vanderbilt Commodores went through a roller coaster of emotions in 2016, but they made a bowl game. Mason even has the dancing evidence to prove it.
But 2017 is the chance for both parties to take even more steps forward. That means making it through a gauntlet of a midseason schedule. Vandy starts its journey by being one of the lucky ones who has to face Alabama on Sept. 23. Now, the game is at home, but few will think that will serve as any sort of advantage for the Commodores. Alabama hasn't lost to Vanderbilt since 1984, and there's nothing that tells us that streak will end in 2017.
A week later, the Commodores travel to Gainesville to face a Florida team that it has kept on the ropes the last two seasons. But offensive changes could be in store for a team that might finally have a suitable quarterback in Feleipe Franks or Kyle Trask. Florida's defense lost some major star power, but it's not like a group of slouches was left at new defensive coordinator Randy Shannon's disposal.
The Commodores head back home after facing the Gators to take on a Georgia team that returns 10 defensive starters and might have the SEC's best rushing duo in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. The Bulldogs lost this game last season, but with Jacob Eason being a year older at quarterback and this team getting some immediate help along its offensive line from this latest recruiting class, the Dawgs should be in the thick of the SEC East race.
It's back on the road again to close out this four-game slate against an Ole Miss team that will be hungry to avenge last year's 38-17 loss to the Dores. The Rebels think they have a star in the making in quarterback Shea Patterson and there are plenty of receivers for him to chuck the ball around to. That Ole Miss defense wasn't very good last year, but some staff changes and growing up should help the Rebels make strides in 2017 after a dismal 5-7 2016 season.