Midseason report: Vanderbilt


Record: 2-4, (1-3 SEC)

Last season, we all watched as Vanderbilt took the necessary first steps to getting out of its old SEC cellar dweller shadow under new coach James Franklin.

Now, Vandy is looking to make it to back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history. But if it’s going to do that, the attitude and toughness from last year has to reappear. After playing tough against South Carolina, the Commodores dropped a bad game to Northwestern on the road. Even with Northwestern’s defense limping into the contest, the Commodores really struggled with consistency and were dreadful on third down.

Things turned around with wins over Presbyterian and Missouri, but Vandy was outscored 79-20 in losses to Georgia and Florida.

The defense has been solid for the most part, as Vandy ranks in the top half of the SEC in scoring defense (seventh), passing defense (third) and total defense (sixth), but it’s been awful against the run, allowing a league-worst 203.5 yards per game and 5 yards per carry. For Vandy to make it to a bowl, the run defense has to improve and it has to find big plays on offense. Inconsistency at quarterback – impacted by a short-lived quarterback battle – aided to that, but the offensive line also has to get tougher. Vandy hasn't consistently run the ball well, and things just aren't opening up for this offense. All that has to change in the second half.

Offensive MVP: WR Jordan Matthews: Even though this offense has lacked in the big-play department as a whole, Matthews has had a great start to the 2012 season. He's been the Commodores' most consistent offensive weapon and is second in the SEC in receptions (43), yards (617) and yards per game (102.8). He's averaging 14.4 yards per catch and has three touchdowns.

Defensive MVP: S Kenny Ladler: The Commodores had to replace a lot on defense this year, but haven't had to worry about Ladler stepping in at safety. He leads the Commodores with 42 tackles, including 26 solo, has an interception and has defended two passes. He's been one of Vandy's most consistent players this year.