Monday, August 13, 2012
One good reason: Vanderbilt
By Edward Aschoff
Our "One good reason" series concludes with a look at the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Let's see what the Commodores might have in store in 2012:
Vanderbilt will make it to a bowl game in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history: Enough offensive talent comes back to get a good amount of points on the board.
The Commodores were one of the most surprising teams on offense last year and the playmakers who made that happen return in 2012. Quarterback Jordan Rodgers had his ups and downs last year, but he made strong strides this spring and the coaches feel he'll be much better this fall. It'll help that wide receivers Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd, who combined for 72 catches and 1,251 yards and 13 touchdowns, return. Rodgers will also benefit from having youngsters Josh Grady and Kris Kentera to throw to as well. Both are converted quarterbacks and had solids springs. Junior receiver Jonathan Krause could be a solid option for Rogers as well.
Carrying the ball shouldn't be an issue either, as Zac Stacy and his 1,193 yards and 14 touchdowns return. Stacy enters the fall as the SEC's top returning running back (stats-wise) from last season. And he'll have some help with Warren Norman coming back. Injuries have wrecked his past two seasons, but he's ready to get back to his old rushing ways. Also, keep an eye on freshman Brian Kimbrow, who could get some carries this fall as well. The Commodores aren't short of talent at all in the playmaking department this fall and could give some defenses fits.
Why it won't: The Commodores won't sneak up on anyone this fall.
Forget the fact that Vandy's offensive line still needs some work and will have to tap into its group of youngsters this fall; the Commodores are more respected this season. That's a good thing and a bad thing. The bad part about it is that the Commodores' SEC counterparts won't be taking them for granted this year. You think Georgia isn't hyped up to play the Commodores in Athens this fall? I think everyone remembers the ending to last year's game. South Carolina dominated Vandy's offense last fall, but the score was still closer than it should have been. Starting the season with the Dores should provide the Gamecocks with some early motivation. Florida and Tennessee also squeaked out close wins against Vandy and should be better prepared this time around. Hey, and rival Ole Miss is itching for an SEC win. The Rebels certainly have Nov. 10 circled on their calendars.
Vandy made its run to a bowl last year because of solid nonconference play. The Commodores went 4-0 against nonconference foes in 2011, but this season they have to go on the road to play Northwestern and Wake Forest, which is no doubt still smarting after that 41-7 beatdown it suffered to Vandy last year.
The culture is different at Vandy, but its opponents know that as well, and they'll be ready for the Commodores this fall.