After a season of offensive struggles, defensive dominance, and a few SEC wins for Derek Mason’s squad, they travel to Knoxville for the season finale.
Vanderbilt (4-7, 2-5 SEC) can’t reach a winning record, but they can ruin Tennessee’s bowl landing spot by pulling out the win. The Commodores, even with a win, most likely won’t be going to a bowl game, this is their bowl game. A win against Tennessee (7-4, 4-3 SEC) is more than a win.
It’s bragging rights. It’s a 365 day reward.
The only team in the conference with fewer big plays than Vanderbilt is Missouri. That’s the outcome of major quarterback issues and little help from your playmakers. Freshman Kyle Shurmur completed three passes for just nine yards last week against Texas A&M, and well, that won’t get it done.
It’s obvious this offense isn’t great, it’s not even good. Dead last in the country in scoring offense. 127 out of 127. But this offense is due for some success, why not have it happen this weekend?
Will it be Kyle Shurmur, who will make his first trip to Neyland Stadium, who makes plays for Vandy? Or will Johnny McCrary come in and save the day? Both make you laugh, right? Let’s just finish this season and we can start the quarterback debate in the spring.
We do know one thing, the Commodores have a defense able to win them football games, but without any offensive production, they will end the season with a sour taste in their mouth.
We know that this squad can shut down teams to their offensive lows, but the Vols present a three-headed monster rushing attack in Joshua Dobbs, Jalen Hurd, and Alvin Kamara. 2,114 of the 2,351 yards on the ground come from those three. The trio have combined for 24 touchdowns which is part of the reason why the Volunteers are 5th in the SEC in points per game. Tennessee is going to hand it off to Hurd, a lot. Vanderbilt has to neutralize him. They will pound it, chew clock, and find a way to end the season with eight wins.
This is a very solid and much improved Tennessee team. A Tennessee team who isn’t going away either. They lose 19 seniors, but most of those guys have already had their spot taken by a sophomore or freshman. Those are the kind of kids Butch Jones and his staff are recruiting. Players who can compete right away and make an impact. They will be a force to be reckoned with for many years. Hats off to you, Butch.
Vanderbilt has won this game twice in the last three years. A lot of the guys on this years team has experienced victory against their in-state rival. Vanderbilt senior linebacker Darreon Herring remembers the feeling of a 14-10 victory the last time these teams met in Knoxville.
“(A win) gives us bragging rights for 365 days,” Herring said. “And then next year, these (underclassmen) are going to go out there and try to get it again, which I have confidence that they will.”
This will be sophomore running back Ralph Webb’s first trip to Neyland Stadium and he has to step in the biggest possible way. The passing game will not be much of a factor for Vanderbilt, so it will be his job to lead this offense. Tennessee will load the box, so the game will lye on the shoulders of Kyle Shurmur. Great. Vanderbilt can’t pull the stunner without the help from their running back.
Vanderbilt is capable of shutting down the Tennessee offense, but being capable and being expected to do it are two different things. As much as I hate to say it, I don’t think Vanderbilt can win this game, but the way this defense has played and I know how hungry this team is for a win, anything is possible.
Prediction: Tennessee 17, Vanderbilt 13
Date: Saturday, Nov. 28
Time: 4 p.m. ET
Place: Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee
TV: SEC Network