This is not a good time for Vanderbilt to be playing Tennessee.

The Volunteers’ defense has been on fire lately, giving up fewer than 250 total yards in each of its last two games. Tennessee’s rushing attack has been overpowering, led by RB Jalen Hurd, who rushed for a career-best 151 yards on 34 carries in last Saturday’s 19-8 win over Missouri. Even Tennessee PK Aaron Medley is finding his groove, making four of his five field-goal attempts against the Tigers.

To beat the Vols, Vanderbilt needs to win the field position battle. Tennessee is excellent at pinning down its opponents. Last week, Missouri began five possessions at its own 11-yard line or worse. On the other hand, Tennessee’s offense had excellent starting field position — particularly in the first quarter when the Vols started no worse than their own 44 and had drives of just 35, 36 and 27 yards that led to a 9-0 lead early in the second quarter.

Vanderbilt also needs to find a way to revive its passing attack. Last Saturday against Texas A&M, the Commodores offense finished with a meager 148 offensive yards and only 23 passing yards combined between starter Kyle Shurmur and sophomore Johnny McCrary.

Tennessee’s secondary has improved throughout the course of the season — now only allowing 217 pass yards per game — but Vanderbilt is going to have to find holes in the pass coverage to move the ball down the field.

Vanderbilt’s defense is good enough keep Tennessee’s offense out of the end zone, but the Commodores need offensive production to win this game.


Best Offensive player: RB Jalen Hurd —  Last Saturday, Hurd became the first true sophomore in Tennessee history to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season. He also has 10 rushing TDs and two receiving TDs.

Best Defensive Player: LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin — The junior leads Tennessee’s defense with 96 tackles, including four sacks and 12 tackles for loss.

Best Special Teams Player: KR Evan Berry — He ranks first in the NCAA in kickoff return average (39.6 yards per return). Berry also has three kickoff returns for TDs.