Vanderbilt travels to in-state rival Tennessee on Saturday in a matchup of two teams who are not bowl eligible, winless in SEC play and, in the Volunteers’ case, are playing with an interim coach. Suffice to say whoever comes out on top Saturday will bring some level of satisfaction into what has been a difficult year, and the struggles for both teams can be traced to inconsistent offenses and leaky defenses.
Vanderbilt ranks 12th in the SEC and 104th nationally in points scored per game (23), while giving up 32 points per contest (12th in the league; 97th nationally). “It was one of those games where it was ugly,” Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason admitted to reporters after the Commodores gave up 28 second-quarter points in last week’s 45-17 home defeat to Missouri, losing for the seventh time in eight games. The Volunteers are averaging 19.5 points per game, last in the conference and 118th in the country, and defensively is not much better, allowing 27.9 points per game to rank 10th in the SEC. “I point out the things they didn’t do well,” Tennessee interim coach Brady Hoke told reporters after his first game as head coach, a 30-10 home loss to LSU. “You appreciate the effort and the toughness you want to see from them, and you challenge them.”
TV: 4 p.m. ET, SEC Network. LINE: Tennessee -1
ABOUT VANDERBILT (4-7, 0-7 SEC): The Commodores recorded 25 first downs last week but could not overcome three turnovers. Running back Ralph Webb finished with 55 yards Saturday, moving into ninth place on the SEC’s all-time rushing list while surpassing the 4,000-yard career mark. Quarterback Kyle Shurmur has passed for 22 touchdowns, tying the school record for most in one season.
ABOUT TENNESSEE (4-7, 0-7): Playing last week in a driving rainstorm, the Volunteers rushed for just 38 yards and two special-teams turnovers proved costly. Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano passed for 239 yards and a touchdown, but Tennessee could not get any closer than 17-10 at halftime in going scoreless in the second half. John Kelly, who leads Tennessee in rushing (758 yards), finished with just 47 yards on 25 carries.
1. The Commodores have surrendered an average of 46 points per game in their seven SEC losses.
2. Tennessee has allowed 26 or more points seven times in 11 games.
3. Vanderbilt has won three of the past five meetings against Tennessee, following a stretch where the Volunteers went 28-1 against the Commodores.
PREDICTION: Tennessee 31, Vanderbilt 27