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Tennessee-Vanderbilt Preview: The Game as a Mere Distraction

Vanderbilt Commodores vs. Tennessee Volunteers
Saturday 17 November 2012 | 7:00pm EST
Vanderbilt Stadium (40,550) | Nashville, TN | ESPN2

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Absolutely everything has been discussed this week within the VolNation. Everything except the upcoming football game.

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A Second Chance Not Wasted: Vols Survive Vandy

Tennessee  27  Vanderbilt 21 (OT)
17 November 2011 | Neyland Stadium | ATT: 91,367
Recap | Boxscore | Play-by-Play | Drive Chart
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Archibald Barns returned a Tyler Bray pass 100 yards for a touchdown. Eric Gordon returned a Jordan Rogers pass 90 yards for a touchdown.

That’s the kind of night it was at Neyland Stadium in one of the most memorable Tennessee-Vanderbilt games in a generation or more.

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Is Vandy Still Candy for Tennessee?

Vanderbilt Commodores vs. Tennessee Volunteers
Saturday 19 November 2011 | 7:00 pm EST
Neyland Stadium (102,455) | Knoxville, TN | ESPNU/ESPN3.com.

Last week against Kentucky, Vanderbilt enjoyed its biggest SEC win in 40 years, a 38-8 thumping of Kentucky. Vandy did it despite squandering three different scoring opportunities in the first half, but also in part by holding the Wildcats to an 0-11 mark on third downs. That, of course, is perhaps more of a measure of how bad Kentucky was/is.

Nonetheless, in 11 months, head coach James Franklin has done more for Vandy football than anyone in decades. Perhaps keeping Franklin from being lured for a better gig is the school’s biggest near-term goal. But, based on Franklin’s premise that he’s in Nashville to thoroughly change a culture, perhaps he will be around a lot longer than Vandy fans fear, or Vol fans would care for.

If he defeats Dooley’s Vols, I would vote for Franklin to be SEC Coach of the Year, because after going 2-10 for two consecutive seasons, a bowl appearance would be an award-winning performance at a school more known for sports like cross-country running and baseball.

Tennessee and Vanderbilt — two programs seemingly heading in opposite directions. But things can turn on a dime. A Vandy loss on Saturday could lead to another at Wake Forest, putting the renaissance on pause. A Vol win on Saturday, followed by a streak-extending victory in Lexington, would send Tennessee bowling, and a win in a bowl game would give Dooley an even .500 record as the head of the Volunteers.

People would all of a sudden breathe a lot easier, most notably Dooley himself.

But before getting ahead of ourselves, here are a few things I’ll be looking at on Saturday.

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Calling All Seniors to be Leaders

In-state enemy, the antithesis everything Tennessee, comes to town for Senior Day.

Vandy, at 5-5 this season, hasn’t won a road game.

Tennessee, at 4-6, hasn’t defeated an SEC school.

Sounds like an even game.

It doesn’t feel like it.

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It’s Back to the Slaughterhouse

Saturday’s respite from SEC warfare was a welcome one — a nice break between conference juggernauts. The word ‘between’ is the problem. It connotes a temporary state, beckoning the inevitable.

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