Originally posted on The Sports Bank  |  Last updated 7/7/12

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 31: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers looks on during the 2010 AFC-NFC Pro Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 31, 2010 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

Last year’s weakest link of Vanderbilt football was the passing game, as they ranked 97th in the nation in that department. That stat is a bit misleading though, as the air attack, and the offense itself took a major turn for the better when Jordan Rodgers replaced Larry Smith in mid-season.

Rodgers is of course, the younger brother of Green Bay Packers signal caller and NFL and Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers. So that’s what the Vanderbilt Commodores are known for now. Under Smith they averaged 20.4 ppg and 244.4 yards. With Rodgers, those numbers went up to 31.6 and 413.

2011 was: a decent start, HORRID middle, but a fine finish. Especially since they won just two games the previous season. To win six in the first year of the James Franklin era says a lot about his ability to coach. Now can they go to back-to-back bowls for the first time in school history?

2012 will go smoothly if:  QB Rodgers works it. He’s got a bunch of great receivers to accompany him, including Jordan Matthews who had 452 yards receiving in a three game stretch. The OL needs to keep up its strong momentum from when they improved markedly in the second half of last season

2012 will be rough if: they can’t fill the new holes they have at the defensive line and linebackers, especially with those extremely strong running games in the SEC they’ll face every year. The secondary should be a sign of strength, as the pass defense was very good last year. They have “SEC speed” as the ‘Dores hung with their opponents pretty well. The 2-6 conference record from last year is misleading, as four of those defeats came by less than a touchdown.

 BMOC: Rodgers, Matthews, WR Chris Boyd, RB Zac Stacy (who could be all conference in any other league), DE Walker May, CB Trey Wilson and Andre Hal, LB Chase Garnham

All-name team: Patton Robinette, Harding Harper, Colt Nichter, Tristan Strong

Bottom Line: There are some questions on both sides of the ball, especially up front, so reaching a bowl depends on them winning all their winnable games. They have enough talent to pull off a couple upsets and improve that ugly conference record. Vandy will look really good in the non-conference though and appear to be a 5-7  to 7-5 squad.

Rankings Athlon- 41 Lindy’s-  52 Phil Steele- 47

All the 77s

#56 Washington St.

#57 Wake Forest

#58 Ole Miss

#59 Purdue

#60 Iowa St

#61 Kentucky

#62 Arizona State

#63 Boston College

#64 Ohio

#65 Marshall

#66 Arizona

#67 Southern Miss

#68 Tulsa

#69 Oregon State

#70 Houston

#71 Syracuse

#72 Colorado

#73 Kansas

#74 Maryland

#75 Duke

#76 Minnesota

#77 Indiana

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Chicago Tribune.com, Fox Sports, MSN, Walter Football and Yardbarker

A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; and he’s a member of the Football Writers Association of America, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and Society of Professional Journalists. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too

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