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Tennessee Vols vs. Vanderbilt Commodores statsy game preview

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The Vols look to finish well against Vandy this Saturday, improving bowl appeal and setting the stage for next season.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

One last push for the Vols' 2015 regular season, and it comes against a Vanderbilt team that is struggling but can make things difficult for opposing offenses. It's been a long time since Tennessee was jockeying for bowl position rather than just playing for eligibility, and it's a nice step in the right direction. Much of the bowl decision depends on what other teams do, but Tennessee does have one last opportunity to make the best case for itself that it can.

So what are the keys to beating Vandy and improving bowl appeal?

Drain the tank. If the coaching staff has made an intentional decision to employ a strategy of rationing its resources this season, now is the time to use whatever's left. Were they saving Dobbs' legs and those wonderful trick plays for Florida? Were they keeping him healthy during South Carolina and North Texas because they knew they needed that foot to be all go at Missouri? Maybe not, but if so, now is the time to use it or lose it. You don't want any stupid injuries or to burn any redshirts or anything, but there's no reason to save any plays or energy any more. Make the best case for an excellent bowl, and anything empty on Sunday can be replenished during bowl prep.

Focus on field position. I know it's been mentioned, but I don't think that the importance of field position against Missouri can be overemphasized. The Tigers were backed up deep into their own territory most of the night and simply couldn't get out of the danger zone. Their only touchdown came on a drive that they started at midfield thanks to a 22-yard punt return. Meanwhile, Tennessee started most of its possessions on short fields. Against good defenses, that makes all the difference, and they'll want to do it again.

Finish with a smile. Related to the first, we'll want to all be walking home with visions of sunny bowl games and an even sunnier 2016. So much of football is accomplished in the "between" times, recruiting, spring practice, summer conditioning and strategizing, fall camp. Those things will probably go well regardless, but finishing well will add a little bit of fuel to the fire, which will in turn pay off during games next season.

My prediction? Tennessee 20, Vanderbilt 10, but I want to subtract another three from Vandy's score and add another seven or so to Tennessee's. If this does turn into a party, we could see the Vols take the lid off, but at this time, I'm keeping the prediction 20-10.

Here's the comparison chart. Tennessee currently resides at 11th on the list of toughest schedules. Vanderbilt is 7th, which may be the first time this season an opponent has boasted a more difficult schedule. If you're interested in advanced stats, you can find them here (Tennessee's | Vanderbilt's). They're giving Tennessee an 83% chance of winning.

Tennessee Logo Vanderbilt Logo Comps Result against Comps Guess
Closest Lower Closest Higher Closest Lower Closest Higher
Team Team Team Team
Rank Value Rank Value Rank Value Rank Value
Tennessee rushing offense vs. Vanderbilt rushing defense 26 213.7 24 126.1 GA/OK MO/AR GA/OK MO/AR 220
46/48 148.1/150.7 23/19 125.9/122.5 207/129 248/133
Tennessee passing offense vs. Vanderbilt passing defense 92 199.6 44 208.7 BG SC/KY BG SC/KY 220
104 264.4 41/35 206.4/200.2 205 255/233
Tennessee rushing defense vs. Vanderbilt rushing offense 47 148.8 93 150.4 FL/MO SC/NTX FL/MO SC/NTX 120
104/117 137.2/117.9 91/81 152.3/161.4 109/88 152/92
Tennessee passing defense vs. Vanderbilt passing offense 58 217.9 112 168.5 None NTX/MO None NTX/MO 140
111/110 169.2/173 107/135
Tennessee scoring offense vs. Vanderbilt scoring defense 48 32.6 14 18.1 OK GA/MO OK GA/MO 20
25 20.5 13/7 17.8/15.1 17 38/19

Tennessee scoring defense vs. Vanderbilt scoring offense

25 20.5 127 14 None MO/NTX None MO/NTX 10
125/123 14.5/15 8/0