Rivalry week is here, meaning the college football regular season is about to come to an end. Tennessee has one final matchup before finding out where they’ll be bowling this season. The 6-5 Volunteers are set to play the 3-8 Vanderbilt Commodores to close the 2019 season, looking to get back on the right side of this rivalry matchup.
Vanderbilt has won three in a row in this series, something that hasn’t happened since the 1920s. Derek Mason’s program has capitalized on the instability of the Tennessee program over the last few years. But now as we end year two under Jeremy Pruitt, the Vols are rolling.
Four straight wins have brought Tennessee up to a 5-3 SEC record — good for third in the East standings. We’re seeing some real development all over this roster, finally giving Tennessee fans a little bit of hope for the next few seasons.
Vanderbilt is on the opposite end of that spectrum. The Commodores have bottomed out in 2019, despite returning key playmakers Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Jared Pinkney and Kalija Lipscomb.
Mason’s team flatlined against UNLV, losing 34-10 at home. They did show one sign of life by beating Missouri in the following week, but couldn’t back that momentum up. Florida beat them 56-0, then Kentucky drilled them 38-14.
Their lone wins this season are against Missouri, ETSU and Northern Illinois.
Tennessee enters this matchup as a 21 point favorite. Looking at these numbers, it’s easy to see why.
ESPN FPI Rank
- Mo Hasan, the starting quarterback for Vanderbilt’s upset of Missouri, has already been ruled out of this one. That means Mason will turn back to Riley Neal, who will make his tenth start of the year under center.Neal has really struggled this season, throwing just eight touchdown passes against five interceptions. He’s thrown for 1,446 yards so far this season and will face a Tennessee defense that has really improved over the last two months.
- Ke’Shawn Vaughn is easily Vanderbilt’s biggest offensive threat, already running for over 1,000 yards this season. He’s scored nine times on the year and should get a healthy amount of work on Saturday night. Tennessee’s 61st ranked rush defense will no doubt be put to the test.
- Defensively, Vanderbilt is going to have to deal with a suddenly potent passing attack. Jarrett Guarantano threw for over 400 yards last week, getting each of Jauan Jennings, Marquez Callaway and Josh Palmer over 100 yards. Vanderbilt’s 81st ranked passing defense is something that Jim Chaney will probably be attacking all night long.
- Tennessee hasn’t put up great numbers running the football this season, but they’ve shown us some flashes lately. The offensive line has come together over the last month and created some push at the line of scrimmage. They’ll have an opportunity for a big night against the Commodores, who rank 109th against the run this season.