A lot of people are very excited about the Vanderbilt Commodores this year. After all, they’ve been making a lot of noise on the recruiting front lately, and James Franklin put together a team that doesn’t just give up – hence why they lost four desperately close games (one in overtime), and this could be a season when Vandy puts together a winning regular season record for the first time in a decade. People are saying that they could upset South Carolina on the first game of the season…

Anyway…

LAST YEAR

Vanderbilt fans may have celebrated going bowling, but really, it could have been so much more than that if they hadn’t broken their fans’ hearts over and over again. Georgia was given the scare of its life at Vanderbilt Stadium, they led Arkansas 28-20 and were on the Razorbacks’ one before their offense’s fumble went back nearly 100 yards for a Hogs score and a huge heartbreak, and a fierce rally at Florida came just five points short. Oh, and they lost to the hated Tennessee – a team itself in the doldrums – in overtime.

On the brighter side of life, Vanderbilt made its bowl game by hammering Wake Forest 41-7 on the road, and had SEC victories over Ole Miss and Kentucky – its best conference record since 2009 (although that’s not saying much!).

Tim Fugger and Casey Hayward were both drafted into the NFL in April.

JORDAN RODGERS….THE NEXT AARON RODGERS?

Just because Jordan Rodgers is Aaron Rodgers’ brother, we’ll go as far as saying that we don’t think he’ll be the next Aaron – or the next Jay Cutler, for that matter (Cutler was a stud at Vandy, for those of you who don’t remember). Rodgers took over the team from Larry Smith and played well enough against Georgia to take the starting job. He finished the half-season he started with 1,500 yards and 9 TDs – although he also had 10 INTs. Rodgers will face competition with new transfer Austyn Carta-Samuels, but this could be a year where we throws for at least 2,500 yards – although this will be a lot less if he can’t keep the interception number down.

His wide receiving options – Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd – had great 2011s and will both be troubling opposition secondaries this year.

DEEPER AT RUNNING BACK?

It’s hard not to like Zac Stacy, who broke Vandy’s single season rushing record with 1,193 yards (and 14 TDs). Check out the highlight of him carrying Kentucky defenders on his back en route to the end-zone! And with Warren Norman, Jerron Seymour, and Wesley Tate now in the backfield, Vanderbilt’s going to have options in the backfield – which can only be good for Franklin and his coaching staff.

WHAT COULD HURT VANDY OFFENSIVELY… 

Is a shallow offensive line, with worries about the team’s depth despite four starters coming back (although one –  Ryan Seymour – has been injured for a while).

WHILE AT DEFENSE…

Let’s be honest, the graduation of the SEC’s top tackler for the last four years – to law school – Chris Marve (LB), is going to be massive. As coaches have found out through the decades, replacing a top defender is a tough, tough business. Marve will be one of those difficult to be replaced. And they also look safety Sean Richardson and cornerback Casey Hayward, who were the team’s second and third best tacklers last year.

However, there is good news. A ‘starting duo’ returns in the secondary in the form of Trey Wilson (CB) and Javon Marshall (SS) in the secondary, and there is a defensive line with quite a few starts under its belt, other than Fugger.

THE 2012 SCHEDULE

August 30 SOUTH CAROLINA

September 8 at Northwestern

September 15 PRESBYTERIAN

September 22 at Georgia

October 6 at Missouri

October 13 FLORIDA

October 20 AUBURN

October 27 UMASS

November 3 at Kentucky

November 10 at Ole Miss

November 17 TENNESSEE

November 24 at Wake Forest

BOTTOM LINE: Vanderbilt hasn’t got the easiest of schedules. While we expect them to beat Presbyterian, UMass and win road games at Kentucky and Ole Miss, the rest of the season is simply up-in-the air. They’ve got to hope that South Carolina starts slowly on the first game of the season, and we worry that their four game stretch against Georgia, Florida, Auburn and Missouri (not in that order) may not yield a victory. The games at home to Tennessee and at Wake Forest will prove pivotal to Vandy’s chances of a bowl game…. and we think that they’ve make it, with a 6-6 record.


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