NASHVILLE, Tenn. | A 3-0 start has Vanderbilt knocking on the door of its first national ranking in 24 years.
The Commodores, undefeated through three games for only the third time since 1984, received 63 votes in this week's Associated Press poll, the most of any team outside the Top 25.
That's no small accomplishment for a program that hasn't won a bowl game since 1955 and is in the midst of a 25-year losing streak.
Should Vanderbilt win at Mississippi on Saturday, the Commodores could vault into the national rankings for the first time since being ranked No. 19 after the first four games in 1984.
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"It's great that we're up there," safety Ryan Hamilton said. "I hope we end up in the Top 25 after this week. It would be good for us to get some recognition throughout the country for what we're doing if we can get to 4-0. As long as we keep winning, people will recognize what we're doing."
Commodores coach Bobby Johnson said he pays little attention to the national polls.
"Your record speaks for itself, and we don't need anybody else to tell us how good we are or how we're doing," he said Monday. "We know we have a lot of improvement to make from week to week. If we keep getting better every week, everything will take care of itself."
Vanderbilt lost several key players from last year's 5-7 team. Its 3-0 start has been fueled mainly by strong performances in the second half, during which it has outscored opponents 45-10.
The Commodores reeled off a 21-0 run in a victory over South Carolina on Sept. 4, then scored 24 consecutive points in last Saturday's win over Rice.
Efficiency on offense and defense has been equal. Vanderbilt has scored on 13 of 14 red-zone opportunities this season, including 10 touchdowns, and leads the Southeastern Conference with 10 sacks.
"We're that second-half team now that we've always struggled with in the past couple of years," Hamilton said. "We're looking at each other in the eyes and saying, 'Do you want to win or do you want to lose?' Nobody here wants to lose. We're all about winning."
The Commodores have trailed in all three games this season before rallying.
"We're executing plays and doing it all four quarters," quarterback Chris Nickson said. "We started slow in all three games we've played this year, but guys just continued to step it up. It's not how you start, it's how you finish."