By Lewis Gould

Year Two in Temple coach Matt Rhule’s era begins Thursday night in a tough place to win for a visitor.

Vanderbilt looks to extend its bowl streak to four years while rebuilding under new coach former Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason, who takes over from James Franklin. The Commodores must replace more than half their starters as they begin that quest against visiting Temple after ending 2013 with five straight victories. Patton Robinette won a three-way competition for the Vanderbilt quarterback job and Temple counters with promising sophomore P.J. Walker under center.

Robinette came off the bench to help Vanderbilt beat Georgia and was the starter when the Commodores won at Florida for the first time in 68 years last season. “(Robinette) has really made strides and consistently improved from spring to now,” Mason told reporters. Coach Matt Rhule begins his second season at Temple and expects progress from Walker, who threw 20 touchdown passes and eight interceptions in the last eight contests of 2013 while helping the Owls win their only two games.

TV: 9:15 p.m. ET, SEC Network. LINE: Vanderbilt –14

ABOUT TEMPLE (2013: 2-10): Walker (2,084 passing yards) should get solid support from a deep group of running backs, led by Kenneth Harper (photo above) (613 rushing yards, nine TDs in 2013) and Zaire Williams (533 yards). However, an inexperienced offensive line will have to improve from last year when it allowed 32 sacks. Junior linebacker Tyler Matakevich keys the defense for the Owls after leading the nation in solo tackles per game (8.8) and being named first team All-American Athletic Conference.

ABOUT VANDERBILT (2013: 9-4): Robinette threw four TD passes and five interceptions in 88 pass attempts last season for Franklin, who took over as Penn State’s new coach in the offseason. Juniors Jerron Seymour (716 rushing yards, 14 TDs) and Brian Kimbrow (341, three) provide experience in the backfield and sophomore Jordan Cunningham is poised to emerge as a big-time receiving target after Jordan Matthews left for the NFL. Mason will transition to a 3-4 base defense with only three returning starters.


1. The Commodores have won nine games in back-to-back seasons for the first time in the program’s history.

2. Temple dropped a 43-14 decision at Vanderbilt in their last meeting in 2006.

3. Vanderbilt P Taylor Hudson was picked third team preseason All-SEC after averaging 42.9 yards in 2013.

PREDICTION: Vanderbilt 27, Temple 17


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