When the Vanderbilt Commodores (4-7, 0-7 SEC) and the Tennessee Volunteers (4-7, 0-7 SEC) square off, you can throw records out of the window. This is especially true as of late, as the Commodores have won three of the last five contests with the Volunteers. Although neither team will be attending a bowl game this season, the rivalry is as captivating as ever.
Here are the matchups to watch for as Vanderbilt rolls in to Knoxville on Saturday.
Kyle Shurmur vs. Tennessee secondary
Shurmur has registered his best season of college football this season for the Commodores. He has logged a career-high 22 touchdowns this season, but has struggled in the past two games with a combined two touchdowns and seven interceptions. Believe it or not, Tennessee ranks second in the nation in pass defense, allowing just 150 yards-per-game. This is mostly because the Vols have yet to be fully tested through the air because of their vulnerability at stopping the run. However, it is still one of the most important matchups of the game.
Tennessee offensive line vs. Vanderbilt front seven
There are reports that Jashon Robertson and Drew Richmond will be out for the Volunteers in this game, which could lead to major problems on Saturday. Last week, Robertson was the only non-freshman on the offensive line until he got hurt against LSU. The Vanderbilt front seven has been struggling recently to create pressure on the backfield, but the door will be wide open for them to be successful this game. If the Vols struggle to run the ball once again, it could be an ugly game.
Ralph Webb vs. Tennessee defense
Webb recently became one of the most established running backs in SEC history with over 4,000 rushing yards during his career in Nashville. With Tennessee’s recent woes stopping the run, Webb could completely take over on Saturday. The Vols defense has allowed two 400-yard rushing games this season, with one of them coming just two weeks ago to Missouri. Webb hasn’t rushed for over 100 yards in nearly three weeks, but expect him to finish his 2017 season strong in Neyland Stadium.
Jarrett Guarantano vs. Vanderbilt secondary
Guarantano tallied just his second throwing touchdown of the year last week against LSU, but he looks to exploit the Commodores secondary on Saturday. The majority of Guarantano’s success recently has hinged on the play of the depleted Tennessee offensive line. However, with offensive coordinator Larry Scott taking over the offensive play calling last week, he had one of his best games of the season. The Commodores are coming off giving up nearly 250 yards and three touchdowns through the air to Drew Lock and Missouri.
Brady Hoke vs. Derek Mason
Both head coaches in this matchup are in interesting situations. Hoke took over interim head coaching reigns for the Vols and just dismissed former star receiver Jauan Jennings from the team earlier in the week. Hoke has received tons of flak for the dismissal and will likely not be around net year for Tennessee. Mason has been receiving talks of being on the hot seat for Vanderbilt, after registering a 17-31 record as head coach of the Commodores. Regardless of the fact that both coaches might be gone after this season, they still faceoff in one of the most intense in-state rivalries in the SEC.
Edited by Ben McKee
Featured image courtesy of Ben Proffitt