Vanderbilt Commodores vs. Tennessee Volunteers
Saturday 17 November 2012 | 7:00pm EST
Vanderbilt Stadium (40,550) | Nashville, TN | ESPN2
Absolutely everything has been discussed this week within the VolNation. Everything except the upcoming football game.
In the first half, the Tennessee defense held Missouri to 7 points (scored on a kickoff return for a TD), only 27 snaps, no big plays (none >20 yards), no Red Zone visits, only 4 first downs, and only 64 total yards.
Then, after taking the second-half opening kickoff, Kendial Lawrence ran a rather simple misdirection running play up the middle for 77 yards and a TD.
It cut the Tennessee lead to 21-14.
It cut a big hole in what confidence Sal Sunseri’s defensive troops may have gathered during the opening half.
It cut open the floodgates of the habit of losing.
Missouri Tigers vs. Tennessee Volunteers
Saturday 10 November 2012 | 12:21pm EST
Neyland Stadium (102,455) | Knoxville, TN | SECN/ESPN3
This is one of the most interesting matchups of the season for Tennessee as well as being a game that holds little interest — all in the same bundle.
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.