Tennessee and Vanderbilt meet on the college football gridiron for the 102nd time Saturday, at Vanderbilt Stadium. Despite the long history of battle between these two teams, the rivalry is hardly looked at outside of the state of Tennessee.
This will be the first time in recent memory that the Vols will be the underdog, not the Commodores. The Vols lead the overall series with a 69-27-5 record against the Commodores.
The Vols come in fresh off a shocking Nov. 8 loss at home to Wyoming and sit at 3-7, and only 1-5 in SEC play.
The Commodores come in as the favorite with a record of 6-4 overall and a 4-3 conference record. Vandy became bowl eligible for the first time since 1982 just last week with a 31-24 win over Kentucky.
Many are looking forward to the Texas Tech—Oklahoma game over the weekend, but this match-up should not be overlooked. Both teams will come in playing smash-mouth, SEC football.
These two teams have a genuine dislike for each other. Expect Tennessee to come out of the gates looking like a Top 25 team to take on their hated rivals from Nashville.
This rivalry has always been pushed to the waste side due to Vanderbilt's history of mediocrity. However, if you know anything about the history of head-to-head match-ups between these two teams, you'll know that this game is consistently a battle that comes down to the final drive.
This year's match-up will be no different. This will hardly be a road game for Tennessee. Historically, the Volunteer faithful has filled up the majority of Vanderbilt Stadium with orange. So the home-field advantage factor should immediately be taken out.
If you look at how these teams match-up, they are actually very similar, despite their records. Tennessee and Vanderbilt both struggle heavily on offense. Tennessee ranks at 117th in total offense, and Vanderbilt at 118th in total offense.
The defenses are the strong points of both teams. The first team to score 20 points will probably win this game.
The X-factor of this game will be the impact that Vanderbilt quarterback Chris Nickson brings to this game. Nickson can beat you with his arm or his legs, and Vanderbilt Coach Bobby Johnson will bring many different packages in on offense to throw off the Tennessee defense.
If the Tennessee defense can figure out a way to get Nickson out of his comfort zone, this game will turn into a defensive struggle where anything can happen.
If Tennessee had remotely any offense, I would give them the nod in this game. Unlike most years, however, Tennessee has so many things working against them in this game.
The players are psychologically messed up due to the firing of Phillip Fulmer. The lack of talent at quarterback has to face a Vanderbilt defense that has forced 16 interceptions as a team.
Tennessee will have another poor offensive showing to go along with a solid defensive performance. Rocky Top has seen better days, and Saturday will add to that with only their 2nd loss to Vanderbilt in over 20 years.
Prediction: Vandy over Tennessee 17-7