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Vanderbilt Football 2021 Opponent Preview: UConn

Vanderbilt wisely replaced Houston on the 2021 football schedule.

NCAA Football: Connecticut at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Opponent: UConn Huskies

Date: October 2, 2021

All-time series record: Vanderbilt leads, 2-1

Last meeting: September 10, 2011; Vanderbilt won, 24-21

Last year: DNP; 2-10 in 2019

Head coach: Randy Edsall (16th year at UConn, 80-100; 21st year overall, 102-134)

A while back, Vanderbilt signed a two-game, home-and-home series against Houston. The Commodores went to Houston in 2015, a miserable night that ended in a 34-0 loss to a Cougar team that would finish the season with a 13-1 record and a Peach Bowl win over Florida State in Tom Herman’s first year.

The return game in Nashville was scheduled for 2021, but Vanderbilt decided that they did not want to play Houston again. Instead, the Commodores backed out of the return game and scheduled UConn instead. A quick look at the capsule that opened this post should give you a good idea as to why: UConn went 2-10 in 2019, its last year in the AAC before removing all of its sports except football to the Big East. The football team is now playing as an independent, and with the Huskies suddenly needing to fill out their schedule that normally would have been occupied with eight AAC opponents, former Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason was more than happy to invite the Huskies to Nashville for what will be the teams’ fourth meeting ever.

Current UConn head coach Randy Edsall was also the head coach for the first two meetings with the Commodores, giving Bobby Johnson his first win over an FBS team in 2002, then handing Robbie Caldwell an embarrassing L in 2010. Edsall departed after that season (and a Fiesta Bowl appearance) for Maryland, leaving Paul Pasqualoni to lose to James Franklin in 2011 in the schools’ most recent meeting. After getting fired from Maryland, Edsall came back to UConn in 2017 and... it has not gone well. Edsall’s second act in Storrs has seen the Huskies post a hideous 6-30 record, losing their final 19 AAC games on their way out of the conference.

And then they didn’t play in 2020. With the rest of FBS going to conference-only schedules (or at least something close to it), UConn, without a conference affiliation, suddenly couldn’t find anybody to play them and opted out of the season. That means that the team that UConn will bring to Nashville on October 2 is kind of an unknown. 2019’s leading passer (Jack Zergiotis, then a freshman) and leading rusher (Kevin Mensah) are still around, but I don’t really have the energy to do a deep dive into a team that literally hasn’t played a football game since 2019. If recent history is any indication, UConn probably won’t be very good; if my ETSU preview is any indication, UConn might be the worst team that Vanderbilt will face in 2021.