Game 11 of 12 – Vandy vs. UMass

With the countdown to kickoff getting ever closer it is time to take an early look at each game on the Vandy schedule in 2012. Instead of taking the game chronologically (no one has any creativity any more) we are going to look at the games in order of their prominence. It is time for the 11th most important game on the Vandy schedule, the October 27th clash with Massachusetts.

Prominence Level

This is really a hard game to rate on the schedule as from the outside it is just a home game against a former FCS school looking to transition to the FBS this year. The fact that this is the 2012 homecoming game, however, certainly adds a level of prestige to the fixture, and will make this game highly important for some people. Taking this as purely football game it is impossible to make any case for this to be any higher on the countdown, so here it is.

Vandy's Keys to Winning

Winning is important, but in this game winning with style will really matter. Homecoming Day is always the biggest celebration on the Commodores fall sporting calendar, and the players and coaching staff know the importance of putting on a show that fits the occasion. This is one of those games where it is vital for the offense to be in top gear as the Vandy wide receivers are dominant physically and athletically over the smaller UMass corners.

This game doesn't have to be a coaching master class of the type James Franklin is capable of, but it would be nice to see him throw in some schemes and play designs that are not normally seen in a live setting. The Minutemen will be dogged, but if Vanderbilt uses their speed, size, and strength advantage then the win should come with relative ease.

How Vandy Could Lose

You would be hard pressed to find anyone who would bet on a transitional school upsetting a FBS school on Homecoming Day. UMass play a full FBS schedule in 2012 and will be looking to pick up as many wins as possible for recruiting purposes. Looking down that schedule it is easy to pick out Vandy and Michigan as the cream of the schools that the Minutemen will play, and as a result UMass will be looking to prove a point against their higher level opposition.

UMass finished the 2011 season with a 5-6 record and will have to be markedly improved to even challenge Vandy in Nashville. The Minutemen though really have the feel of being a true transition team in every way as they search for a new identity under first year coach Charley Molnar. Molnar was most recently offensive coordinator at Notre Dame and if he can channel some of the firepower that saw the Irish roll up almost 425 yards per game last year then Vandy might be in trouble. In reality though Vandy has the better athletes and this game shouldn't even be close.

What Will Happen

Molnar has quite the task in bringing the Minutemen to the FBS and this is likely to be the biggest lesson his team receives all year. While UMass may grow into a solid program it is far too soon in their lifecycle for them to challenge the likes of the Commodores. This game will be over by the end of the second quarter and in the second half the backups will get valuable playing time against determined, but physically overmatched, competition.

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