Football Preview Weekish: Vanderbilt Commodores

As part of TheUConnBlog’s 2011 Football Preview Weekish, we’re counting down the days until the Huskies' season opener against Fordham on Sept. 1. Today, we take a look at the Vanderbilt Commodores.

Vanderbilt is a lot like UConn, except for their southern location, superior academics, inferior athletic program and infinitely superior football conference. Okay, so they're not that alike -- still, they're both teams in BCS conferences that struggle to keep up with the nation's blue blood programs.

They also both have first-year head coaches. For Vanderbilt it's James Franklin, who was the coach-in-waiting at Maryland (he jumped to the Commodores two weeks before the Edsall hiring).

The coach may be new, but the player's aren't. Vanderbilt is returning all 11 offensive starters and eight defensive ones. In theory nineteen returning starters gives you a lot of experience, but they're returning from a 2-10 season that included a 40-21 stomping from pre-turnaround UConn.

Still, experience is experience, and the Commodores will have less personnel questions to answer than the Huskies, and they have the added advantage of hosting UConn this time around. UConn should be in a good position to win, but it's anything but a guarantee. 

Opponent: Vanderbilt Commodores

Date / time / TV: Saturday, Sept. 10 / 7:30 p.m. / SNY

Site: Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville

Coach: James Franklin (first season)

Official Website: http://vucommodores.cstv.com/sports/m-footbl/vand-m-footbl-body.html

On SBNation: Anchor of Gold

2011 schedule:
S. 3 Elon
S. 10 UConn
S. 17 Mississippi*
S. 24 at South Carolina*
O. 8 at Alabama*
O. 15 Georgia*
O. 22 Army
O. 29 Arkansas*
N. 5 at Florida*
N. 12 Kentucky*
N. 19 at Tennessee*
N. 26 at Wake Forest 

Series with UConn: Tied, 1-1

Last meeting: UConn 40, Vanderbilt 21 (Oct. 2, 2010 at Rentschler Field)

2010 record: 2-10 (1-7 SEC)

Best 2010 win: Vanderbilt 28, Mississippi 14 (Sept. 18, 2010 at Oxford, MS)

Worst 2010 loss: Wake Forest 34, Vanderbilt 13 (Nov. 27, 2010 at Nashville)

2010 team offensive stats: 16.9 PPG, 138.8 rush yds/game (3.96 per rush), 159.4 pass yds/game (5.3 per pass)

2010 team defensive stats: 31.2 PPG, 193.0 rush yds/game (4.46 per rush), 226.3 pass yds/game (7.8 per pass)

Of note: The Commodores totaled 326 yards against UConn's defense last year, though all 21 of their points were scored in the second quarter of that game.

Returning starters: 11 (offense), 8 (defense)

Key players (offense): QB Larry Smith (1262 pass yds, 6 TD; 248 rush yds, 4 TD), RB Warren Norman (459 rush yds, 4 TD), TE Brandon Barden (34 rec, 425 yds, 3 TD)

Key players (defense): CB Casey Heyward (70 tackles, 6 INT), S Sean Richardson (98 tackles, 6 TFL)

Experts say: "Franklin ... appears to possess the energy and enthusiasm required for what is certainly a tough gig. For now, optimism is high." -Lindy's

"The Commodores figure to have trouble escaping last place in the SEC East." -Athlon

UConn wins if: Paul Pasqualoni has found answers to UConn's roster questions. UConn should have more talent, but if they don't have a QB it's going to be hard to win.

Vanderbilt wins if: The 19 returning starters from last year's 2-10 team take to James Franklin's system quickly. This group of players lost convincingly to UConn last year, but that UConn team had a lot more weapons (namely: Todman, Jordan). If the Commodores are prepared UConn could be in trouble.

Bottom line: UConn can, and probably should win this game, but with two new head coaches there are a lot of questions surrounding both programs.

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