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Vanderbilt, Delaware Announce Plans to Play in 2026

Vanderbilt to play Delaware
© Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Mark your calendars, sports fans. The Vanderbilt Commodores and the Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens have just announced a historic football showdown at First Bank Stadium in Nashville on Sept. 12, 2026. This highly anticipated game will mark the first-ever meeting between these two programs.

Looking Ahead for Delaware

The Blue Hens will play Vanderbilt for the first time, and this will be their first game against an opponent of the Southeastern Conference. Delaware will join the FBS in the 2024 season and be part of the Coastal Athletic Association (CAA), but it will not be eligible for the FCS playoffs. In the 2025 season, the Blue Hens will jump head-first into a full FBS schedule while being a member of Conference USA but will still be ineligible for postseason play. Once the Blue Hens enter the 2026 season, they will be full-on members of the FBS and can play in the CUSA championship game and bowl games for the first time.

Looking Ahead for Vanderbilt

When Delaware comes to town, the Commodores look to better their all-time win record of 22-4 against teams from CUSA. Vanderbilt does own an overall 18-3 record against Middle Tennessee State, so that makes up the bulk of the overall record. With securing this game, Vanderbilt now has three nonconference games scheduled for the 2026 season.

In that campaign, the Commodores will face off with the Austin Peay Governors and the North Carolina State Wolfpack. No fourth game is scheduled yet because no one knows what the SEC will do after the next two seasons following the addition of Oklahoma and Texas. Will the SEC remain with eight conference games or move to nine? That is still to be determined.

Outlook for the Game

With this game still a few years away, it's a perfect time for some friendly speculation. Conventional thinking might lead you to believe the SEC team would dominate CUSA without a problem. However, the Blue Hens are a perennial playoff team in the FCS, and Ryan Carty, heading into his third season as the coach at his alma mater, looks to continue to have an explosive offense that will give people problems.

Vanderbilt should have the better squad, but will academic requirements keep them from landing large NIL deals for athletes who cannot qualify for the school academically? With conference realignment and teams moving from FCS to FBS, the landscape of college football is ever-changing, but one thing is for sure: we can look forward to a thrilling and historic matchup like this one.


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