We'll kick off our 2013 SEC schedule analysis with Vanderbilt and work our way back through the league in reverse alphabetical order:
Nonconference opponents (with 2012 records)
Sept. 7: Austin Peay (2-9)
Sept. 21: at Massachusetts (1-11)
Sept. 28: UAB (3-9)
Nov. 30: Wake Forest (5-7)
SEC home games
Aug. 29: Ole Miss
Oct. 5: Missouri
Oct. 19: Georgia
Nov. 16: Kentucky
SEC road games
Sept. 14: at South Carolina
Oct. 26: at Texas A&M
Nov. 9: at Florida
Nov. 23: at Tennessee
Gut-check time: Take your pick. There’s the trip to Texas A&M on Oct. 26, and then two weeks later Vanderbilt travels to Florida on Nov. 9. It helps that there’s a bye in between those two games. But any time you venture to Kyle Field and the Swamp, especially later in the season, anything less than an “A” effort usually means you’re headed back home lamenting a loss.
Trap game: There’s a very good chance that Missouri could be 4-0 and brimming with confidence when the Tigers visit Vanderbilt Stadium on Oct. 5. It’s also the game that precedes Georgia’s visit to Music City two weeks later. The Commodores better not get caught looking ahead.
Snoozer: The Commodores will have a few extra days to prepare for FCS foe Austin Peay after opening the season on a Thursday at home. The Governors, guided by first-year coach Kirby Cannon, won just two games a year ago and were 1-7 in the Ohio Valley Conference.
Telltale stretch: It has to be the first half of the season, beginning with that Thursday night home opener against Ole Miss on Aug. 29. If Vanderbilt can hold serve at home and beat Ole Miss for the sixth time in the last seven years, the Commodores could set the tone for a red-hot start to the season. Five of their first seven games are at home.
Final analysis: The nonconference slate softens this season for the Commodores. Three of their four games are at home, and the lone road date is at Massachusetts, which finished 1-11 a year ago. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the SEC road schedule is a killer. Vanderbilt has to play at South Carolina, at Texas A&M and at Florida. (The trip to Texas A&M replaces a home game with Auburn.) Getting off to a quick start and taking advantage of all those home games in the first half of the season would certainly make things easier for the Commodores. It’s not unreasonable to think they could be 5-1 going into that home contest against Georgia on Oct. 19, particularly if they can win the opener against Ole Miss. Their last three games are against Kentucky, Tennessee and Wake Forest -- teams that suffered through losing seasons a year ago. In fact, seven of the 12 teams on Vanderbilt’s 2013 schedule finished with losing records last season. If the Commodores can stay healthy, don’t be surprised if they finish with consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 1974-75.