For the third week in a row, the Rocky Top Talk staff has had a poor read on the Vols, as Tennessee delivered a 19-8 win over Missouri that was quite a bit more comfortable than our projections. Despite being the only staff member to correctly pick the winner against the spread, Hunter lost Closest to the Pin to Will, whose 20-13 prediction was just four off the final margin and six off the final total.
This week, the Vols face their second straight opponent with a remarkable defense and a remarkably bad offense. Only this time, Tennessee is playing at home and is favored by three scores. Will the Vols close out the regular season with a win over Vanderbilt?
Incipient (8-3 straight up, 5-6 against the spread): If Tennessee's defense can repeat their performance from last week against another terrible offense, they won't have much to worry about. Take care of the ball, and win. But even if the Vols can win without a sterling offensive performance, after struggling on offense for most of the last 2.5 games, it would be nice to see a return to mid-season form against another strong defense. Will that happen? Probably not. Expect more of what we saw last week: short fields and Aaron Medley. Tennessee 23 Vanderbilt 10
Hunter (7-4 straight up, 7-4 against the spread): Butch Jones might be happy to walk away with a low scoring win over Vanderbilt, but Tennessee's players have heard enough yapping out of Caleb Azubike to last a lifetime. Tennessee 27 Vanderbilt 6
Chris (9-2 straight up, 5-6 against the spread): How much would Tennessee need to score in this game for you to feel comfortable based on Vanderbilt's offense? 24? 21? 17? 14? 10? 3? I keep on coming down around 17. Vanderbilt's difficult, stifling defense has been roughly on par with Tennessee's over the course of the season; we just hear about the defense because the offense is execrable.
Ugly, but ugly by design. Tennessee 17 Vanderbilt 3
Joel (8-3 straight up, 6-5 against the spread): Tennessee 20 Vanderbilt 10.
Will (8-3 straight up, 5-6 against the spread): Missouri's defense had given Josh Dobbs trouble two years in a row, but this time the Vols were good enough in the run game for it to just not matter Vanderbilt's defense has given Dobbs trouble two years in a row, and I think they'll commit even more to taking away the run game. So Tennessee may have to hit a pass or two on this bunch, but again, I just don't think it matters. I also think, in the last game of the season with less fear of injury and seven wins already in hand, the Vols might be a little less conservative with the lead. Maybe. Either way, Vanderbilt won't score enough for this to matter. Tennessee 27 Vanderbilt 6
Rocky Top Talk Staff Average (7-4 straight up, 5-6 against the spread): Tennessee 23 Vanderbilt 7
Vegas (for reference): Tennessee -17.5, over/under 41. Tennessee 29 Vanderbilt 12