FPM Opponent Outlook: The Vanderbilt Commodores

As part of TheUConnBlog's 2010 Season Preview Month-ish, we're counting down the days to the UConn football team's opener against Michigan. Today, we look at the Huskies' fifth opponent: the Vanderbilt Commodores. You can read all our Football Preview Month-ish posts here.

Man, am I happy we were able to beat South Carolina in last year's PapaJohn's.com Bowl. Why? Because if we did not beat South Carolina, then our first win over an SEC team would have come against Vanderbilt, and I can't help but feel that a win over Vandy just shouldn't count as a win against an SEC team.

Vanderbilt, of course, was a feel-good story in 2008, starting out 5-0 and making it to postseason play. Then, 2009 happened and the Commodores went 2-10, and 0-8 in the SEC. The good news for Vandy? They have seven starters coming back to their offense, including what appears to be the start of a solid running attack. The bad news? That same offense was ranked 117th in the NCAA last year and average a whopping 16.3 points per game.

Oh, and their coach Bobby Johnson resigned in July. Johnson was replaced by former offensive line coach and noted turkey inseminator Robbie Caldwell, so they have that going for them.

The point is, UConn should win this game. Vandy may have a few good pieces, but they don't seem enough to pose a real challenge for the Huskies.

Opponent:  Vanderbilt

Date / Time / TV:  Saturday, Oct. 2 (Homecoming) / Time TBA / TV TBA

Site: Rentschler Field - East Hartford, CT (capacity: 40,000)

Coach: Robbie Caldwell (1st season, 0-0; 0-0 overall)

Team's Official Website: Vanderbilt Commodores

On SBNation: Anchor of Gold

2009 Record: 2-10 overall (0-8 SEC; 12th; no postseason)

Notable 2009 wins: None. Or: 36-17 over Rice on Sept 26., I guess

Notable 2009 losses: The Commodores were only able to stay within one score of their opponent on two occasions. A 16-13 OT loss to Army on Oct. 10 and a 14-10 loss to South Carolina on Oct. 24.

2010 Schedule:

September 4         Northwestern
September 11       LSU
September 18  @ Mississippi
October 2          @ UConn
October 9               Eastern Michigan
October 16       @ Georgia
October 23            South Carolina
October 30      @ Arkansas
November 6          Florida
November 13  @ Kentucky
November 20       Tennessee
November 27       Wake Forest

Know your enemy: UConn fans will be able to see all three Vandy games leading up to their tilt with UConn. The Northwestern and Mississippi matchups will be on ESPN3 and their game with LSU is slated for ESPNU.

Series vs. UConn: Vanderbilt leads, 1-0

Last time vs. UConn: Vanderbilt 28, UConn 24 (Oct. 26, 2002)

2009 offensive stats: 16.3 PPG / 147.16 YPG passing / 160 YPG rushing

2009 defensive stats: 23.3 PPG / 164.91 YPG passing / 197.83 YPG rushing

Returning starters (offense): 7

Returning starters (defense): 4

Key players (offense): So. RB Warren Norman (145 rush, 783 yards, 3 TD in 2009); So. RB Zac Stacy (107 rush, 478 yards, 3 TD in 2009); Jr. QB Larry Smith (106-227, 1126 yards, 4 TD/7 INT in 2009)

Key players (defense): Jr. LB Chris Marve (121 tackles, 1 sack in 2009); Jr. DB Casey Hayward (58 tackles, 2 interceptions in 2009 with an ACL tear); Jr. DB Jamie Graham (2 interceptions, 27 tackles in 2009)

Our outlook for 2010, in 50 words or less: It's really not Vanderbilt's fault, I mean, anyone is screwed if they try to have academic standards in the SEC. If you add in the fact that their coach resigned two months ago, the only conclusion is that the Commodores don't have a lot to look forward to this year.

What the experts say:

"How can the Commodores wade through [the SEC-East] and hope to advance up the standings? It definitely won't happen if Vanderbilt gets racked with injuries again, as it did a year ago." --Blue Ribbon

"The Commodores have just 11 returning starters and lose 27 lettermen (tied for most SEC) [ ...] should be a second straight finish in the [SEC-East] basement." --Phil Steele

"The best Vanderbilt can hope for is to keep games close and to make plays at the end when it counts, which is just what happened two years ago." --Lindy's

UConn wins if: They don't turn over the ball an absurd amount of times. The Husky defense should be able to handle Vanderbilt's offense pretty easily, so as long as the offense keeps its head on straight, UConn should be fine.

Vanderbilt wins if: UConn is so busy looking ahead to the incredibly hateable Rutgers that they forget to prepare and make a lot of dumb mistakes. Even then, this game should be UConn's pretty easily.

Bottom line: UConn wins. Depending on how things go in Ann Arbor, UConn should be heading into Big East play at 5-0 or 4-1. If the Huskies are playing as well as they should be, Vanderbilt shouldn't be much of an obstacle.

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