The Tennessee Volunteers (4-7, 0-7 SEC) split the rivalry with Vanderbilt (4-7, 0-7 SEC) during the Butch Jones era. With new interim coach Brady Hoke, the Vols seek revenge after Vanderbilt’s 45-35 win in 2016.
Here are five things that Tennessee needs to do in order to cruise to a win on Saturday in Neyland Stadium.
1. Get the run game going
In order for the Volunteers to be efficient on offense, they have to get the running game off to a good start. Tennessee hasn’t registered a running back with more than 100 yards in a game since Ty Chandler did so in the Kentucky game three weeks ago. In fact, John Kelly has the only other 100-yard performances, and only one of the three games were against an SEC opponent. There is a reason why quarterback Jarrett Guarantano has logged just two touchdowns all season, as the Vols pose no threat on the ground.
2. Find consistency on the offensive line
This may sound utterly stupid considering that the Tennessee offensive line is ravaged by injury and only played one non-freshman against LSU. However, if the Vols could find a way to find consistency along the offensive line, the Tennessee offense could be revitalized. However, Hoke made it unclear whether center Jashon Robertson or tackle Drew Richmond would be playing. If the Vols manage to have offensive success with the make-shift line they have, it will be a miracle.
3. Stop the run
The Tennessee rush defense has been awful in 2017, and it shows no signs of improving. Going up against Vanderbilt running back Ralph Webb, the Vols will need to see vast improvements before Saturday. Tennessee has allowed over 400 yards twice this season, with the last coming just two weeks ago to the Missouri Tigers. If Tennessee manages to let Webb and the Commodore backfield terrorize them, it could get ugly on Saturday afternoon.
4. Limit Shurmur’s impact
Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmur has come a long way since playing against the Vols last season. Shurmur put up over 400 yards passing and two touchdowns in their last meeting with Tennessee. In 2017, Shurmur is just one passing touchdown away from logging the most passing touchdowns in a season in Commodores football history. However, he has thrown for just two touchdowns and seven interceptions in the last two games. The Vols will need this type of performance from Shurmur to stay in the game Saturday.
5. Play motivated
Believe it or not, Tennessee still has things to play for. The Vols have yet to win an SEC game this season and are just one loss away from being the worst Tennessee football team in program history. The Volunteers surely know what they’re up against and like Hoke said, it’s all about the seniors. The Tennessee seniors that invested so much time into the program don’t deserve to go down in the record books as one of the worst teams of all-time. There’s no better way to send them off than a win over a rival in Neyland Stadium.
Edited by Ben McKee
Featured image of Ben Proffitt