VANDERBILT (2-8, 1-6) vs. TENNESSEE (4-6, 1-5)
6:30 p.m. (CST), Saturday
Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville
TV: CSS (Comcast, Ch. 27) Radio: WRQQ-FM 97.1
About the Commodores:
• Vanderbilt has used 13 true freshmen this season in addition to 11 redshirt-freshmen and 21 sophomores. By comparison, just eight seniors have seen the field.
• True freshman receiver Jordan Matthews has caught a touchdown in the last two games. He has just three receptions for 45 yards. His two touchdown catches – both in the fourth quarter – have accounted for 10 yards.
• They have lost nine straight Southeastern Conference games at home. Their last conference victory at home was on Oct. 4, 2008 when they knocked off then-No. 13 Auburn 14-13.
• They rank 119th out of 120 teams in the FBS in third-down conversion with a 23.3 percentage (31-for-133). As a result, Richard Kent has punted 79 times, which is the most in the nation.
About the Volunteers:
• Sixteen true freshmen have played for Tennessee this fall, which is the third most in the FBS. Florida is the only SEC team that has played more (17). The Vols have also used 10 redshirt-freshmen.
• True freshman quarterback Tyler Bray has thrown eight touchdown passes in the last two games. He has thrown for 951 yards and 10 touchdowns and just three interceptions in six games. He will be making his third start this week. He passed for 300-plus yards in his last two games, both starts, to become the first Vol to do so in consecutive games since Casey Clausen in 2001.
• They have lost all three of their SEC road games this season. They ended last year with a win at Kentucky, which was Tennessee’s 25th straight victory over the Wildcats. Other than that victory, the Volunteers’ road record against SEC opponents has been dreadful the last three seasons. Since the start of the 2008 season, Tennessee is just 2-9 in SEC play away from Knoxville.
• They rank 95th in the FBS and 11th in the SEC in third-down conversions. They have picked up a first down just 52 times on 146 third-down tries. The Volunteers’ 54 punts trail only Vanderbilt for the most punts in the SEC.
Something to consider:
• Tennessee and Vanderbilt have given up a combined 63 sacks this year so Saturday’s game could be painful for the quarterbacks. Tennessee has allowed a conference-worst 34 sacks and Vanderbilt is right behind with 29 sacks allowed.
• The last time Vanderbilt defeated Tennessee in Nashville was in 1982. Since then, the Volunteers have won 26 of the last 27 meetings, including the last four.
• The Commodores are 2-1 in games this season in which they led at halftime. Their only loss came last week against Kentucky. They led the Wildcats 13-10 but Kentucky scored 28 straight points in the second half on its way to a 38-20 victory.
• Senior Kennard Reeves rushed for a career-high 105 yards on 19 carries against Kentucky. It was the first time since 2003 that Vanderbilt lost a game in which it had a 100-yard rusher, snapping a 14-game streak. Warren Norman has the season’s only other 100-yard rushing performance, running for 111 yards in a victory at Mississippi on Sept. 18.
After two straight victories, confidence is high at Tennessee. After losing six of seven, the Volunteers put up 50 points in two straight outings – against Memphis and Mississippi – as the offense seems to be rolling with Bray throwing the ball. Tennessee has plenty to play for – if the Vols wins their last two games they will become bowl eligible.
Vanderbilt insists it has plenty to play for too – mainly pride. Stuck in a five-game losing streak with the injury list getting longer by the hour, the Commodores are just trying to take some positives – and wins – out of the last two games. They did move the ball against Kentucky, totaling 400 yards on a season-high 81 plays. But the defense couldn’t stop the big play, allowing 580 yards.
If Vanderbilt can get to Bray early and strike first on offense, it could have a chance. Tennessee, however, is riding a hot hand and has more to play for than Vanderbilt. It should be a competitive contest but, in the end, the Commodores won’t be able to keep up.
Tennessee 31, Vanderbilt 21