Attn: Derek Dooley.
The Tennessee brass will not care if you beat Vanderbilt Saturday.
With that out of the way, there’s no need for anymore infamous postgame speeches in which you brag about UT’s extensive success over the Commodores.
Vandy (6-4) hosts the hapless Vols (4-6) this weekend in what could be Dooley’s last road trip in Knoxville. If Tennessee doesn’t find a way to win — and beat Kentucky next week — the Vols won’t go bowling and Dooley’s bags will be packed. Tennessee has lost five of its last six games, the lone win coming in underwhelming fashion against Troy. While the Vols’ season has soured down the stretch, Vandy is starting to peak with four straight wins. Wideout Jordan Matthews is one of two 1,000-yard receivers in the SEC while quarterback Jordan Rodgers is beginning to play at the level expected from coach James Franklin.
Struggles on defense are well-documented for the Vols, one of the leading reason Dooley’s bunch remain winless in conference play. Tennessee has given up at least 450 yards of offense in six straight games, a horrid stretch that began at Georgia in September. Quarterback Tyler Bray is having an offensive player of the year caliber junior season but it’s going unnoticed. The 6-foot-6 pocket passer has thrown for 1,302 yards and 13 touchdowns over his last three games, easily the most in the conference in both categories during that span. He has improved his quarterback rating and helped Tennessee’s offense become more prolific, but Bray’s numbers have been lost in Dooley’s disappointing third season.
Vandy’s secondary is one of the more talented Tennessee has faced all season, ranking third-best in the SEC behind LSU and Alabama at 177 yards per contest. That side of the ball has kept the Commodores within striking distance in several games this season and is a leading reason the program is going bowling for the second consecutive campaign. Franklin said Tuesday that running back Zac Stacy will play against the Vols are leaving last weekend’s win at Ole Miss on the second play. He’s the school’s all-time leading rusher and Vandy’s top threat on offense.
A win over Tennessee would give Vanderbilt another boost of momentum heading into the finale at Wake Forest and marks the Commodores’ first home victory over the Vols in 30 years. A loss for Tennessee pushes the program further into oblivion and equals Dooley’s 19th SEC setback in 23 games. The Vols have won 26 of their last 27 games against Vandy, but are considered underdogs for only the second time during that span.