Vanderbilt Opponents 2009- Part I

In the first quarter of the 2009 season Vanderbilt will face Western Carolina, LSU, and Mississippi State. During this critical part of the season the Commodores need to come out at least 2-1 in order to stay on target for a possible second straight bowl bid. Look inside to find out more about these first four important games for Vandy.

Vanderbilt vs. Western Carolina
September 5, 2009

Overview: WCU finished the 2008 season 3-9 under first-year head coach Dennis Wagner. It will be the opening game for both teams and will be televised on CSS. Although Western Carolina is a FCS opponent, Vanderbilt cannot afford to overlook them. A lose to the Catamounts would be disastrous.

The raw data: WCU runs a West Coast/Multiple offense and a 4-2-5 defense. 36 lettermen return including 7 on each side of the ball.

Why we should be worried: Zack Jaynes, a 6-foot-tall, 195 pound red shirt sophomore from Canton, N.C. returns at quarterback for WCU. Last season he passed for 1,163 yards on 127-of-229 passing and had 10 touchdown passes. Those aren't staggering numbers but you can bet he'll be improved for his second season. Myron Lewis and company will need to be on their toes. Quan Warley returns at running back. He rushed for 688 yards and two touchdowns last season. The Catamounts also return three of their offensive linemen. On defense WCU has junior Gene Singletary, a 265-pound nose guard, back. He had 19 tackles and 2.5 tackles for losses and also intercepted a pass and then rambled 31-yards for a score. Safety Mitchell Bell is likely the best player on the WCU defense. He intercepted 5 passes a year ago and earned All-Southern Conference honors.

Why we should be optimistic: Vanderbilt has never lost to a FCS division (Formerly I-AA) team. The Commodores did lose to The Citadel in 1979 but that team was still a division I-A team at the time.

What might happen: Look for Vanderbilt to win big. Bobby Johnson has a history of doing well against FCS teams. Having coached at that level, he knows how to exploit the weaknesses of these teams. Vanderbilt will build up a big lead in the first half and then Johnson will call off the 'Dores midway through the third quarter.

Predicted Score: Vanderbilt 52 Western Carolina 9

Vanderbilt vs. LSU
September 12, 2009

Overview: Vanderbilt's first road game of the 2009 season is a tough one: Death Valley in Baton Rouge. LSU, after winning the 2007 National Championship, finished the 2008 season a disappointing 8-5. Unlike their opening game, Vanderbilt will play the role of underdog on the road for this ESPNU televised game. The Tigers will be playing their home opener after pounding Washington the prior week in Seattle.

The raw data: LSU returns 47 lettermen including 7 offensive and 7 defensive starters. Head coach Les Miles in 70-32 over his career and 24-5 in home games at LSU.

Why we should be worried: While Vanderbilt has improved their level of play against SEC teams the past few years, they have struggled against LSU. Vandy lost 24-7 at LSU in 2004 and in 2005, with Jay Cutler at his peak at VU, the Commodore fell 34-6 at home against the Tigers. On offense, the Tigers return running back Charles Scott who rushed for 1,174 yards and 18 touchdowns last year. Wide receiver Brandon LaFell (63 catches in '08) is also back. Offensive tackle Ciron Black is an Outland Trophy candidate. Strong safety Harry Coleman led the Tigers in tackles last year with 71. Linebacker Perry Riley had 7 tackles for losses. Senior All-SEC defensive end Rahim Alem is also back.

Why we should be optimistic: Hey, Vanderbilt is no pushover anymore and the Commodores have vastly improved their competitiveness on the road in the SEC over the past few years. Wins at Georgia, Arkansas, South Carolina, Ole Miss and Arkansas are proof of that improvement. When you think about it this could be a trap game for LSU. They'll be coming off a blowout win at Washington. While all the experts say no one is overlooking Vandy anymore I find that hard to believe. There's no way Vanderbilt could possibly win in Death Valley in the Tiger's home opener, right?

What might happen: The odds are LSU will win this game because they are still vastly more talented that Vanderbilt. However, look for Vandy to give them a good fight. The Commodores will likely lead in the second or third quarter but LSU will come back and pull off a win by two scores in a game that will be sort of like the game in Athens last year where Vandy fell to the Bulldogs, 24-14.

Predicted Score: LSU 27 Vanderbilt 17

Vanderbilt vs. Mississippi State
September 19, 2009

Overview: Odds are Vanderbilt will be coming into this game at 1-1 to face a Mississippi State team that will also be 1-1. The Bulldogs will coming off a game at Auburn the week prior. This game, which will be televised on Fox Sports, will be former Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen's first against Vanderbilt as head coach at MSU.

The raw data: State returns 41 lettermen including 7 offensive starters and 5 defensive starters. The Bulldogs have 98 percent of their rushing yardage gainers back from a year ago. The Mississippi State program is 7-6 all time in bowl games.

Why we should be worried: Remember last year, Vandy stunk it up in Starkville, losing 17-14 because of the lack of offensive production. That nightmarish game could happen again. While the Bulldogs will have a new offense installed this season they will have their top runner from a year ago back. 6-foot-1, 235-pound running back Anthony Dixon is back for his senior year and already has over 2,600 career rushing yards. MSU also has their top receiver, Brandon McRae, back. A year ago he caught 51 passes to lead the team. On defense linebacker K.J. Wright is back. He had 72 tackles, 4 sacks and 1 forced fumble.

Why we should be optimistic: The Bulldogs have only five starters back from last year's tough defense. They also have a new offensive system being put in and it's likely they don't yet have the personnel to maximize it. It's a home game for Vandy. The last time the Commodores hosted Mississippi State they won 31-13 (2004). That year MSU upset Florida, 38-31.

What might happen: Look for Vandy to do better offensively than last year's debacle. Vandy's defense will make some big plays against the MSU offense, which will still be learning its new offense. The Commodores will win but it won't be a blowout.

Predicted Score: Vanderbilt 24 Mississippi State 13

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