Week 12 - Tennessee at Vanderbilt

Posted Nov 16, 2012

Week 12 Fearless Prediction – Tennessee at Vanderbilt

Tennessee (4-6) at Vanderbilt (6-4) Nov. 17, 7:00, ESPN2

Here's The Deal: Ah yes, the Vanderbilt – Kentucky end of the year swing for Tennessee. Since 1945, the Vols have enjoyed a November safety net knowing that there were two easy wins waiting at the end of the year to ensure the season would close down on a high note. Of course, UK and Vandy have come up with a few wins here and there, but from 1985 to 2004, Tennessee won 20 straight in the back-to-back series before losing to the Commodores in 2005 and was 25 of 26 until losing to Kentucky in last season's stunner. So with that in mind, there's reason for Vol fans to think there's still hope at the end of the painful tunnel.

Tennessee is a woeful 0-6 in SEC play after losing a four-overtime game against Missouri that might have sealed head coach Derek Dooley's fate. Even if he beats Vanderbilt and UK to get to six wins and bowl eligibility, it's going to be a tough sell to give him another season after such a disappointing campaign.

Vanderbilt was able to get its sixth win last week with a win over Ole Miss, and now it's time to try jockeying for decent bowl position while knocking off the big boy from down the road. On a four-game winning streak, and with a winnable date against Wake Forest next week, there's a chance to finish with a tremendous 8-4 record for the program's best season since 1982. If the Commordores win out – including a bowl victory – it will be the first time they've won nine games in a season since 1915.

Why Tennessee Might Win: Turnover margin has been a problem for the Vols all season long, but this week it might not be any sort of an issue. The Commordores don't force turnovers – ever. Of the eight takeaways on the season three came against UMass, two came against Presbyterian and two came in the opener against South Carolina. That's it. That means in seven games, the Vanderbilt defense has forced a grand total of one takeaway, a lonely fumble recovery in the win over Missouri. If this gets into any sort of a shootout, Tennessee is better equipped and it could benefit by being +2 in turnover margin.

Why Vanderbilt Might Win: The Commodores should be very disruptive, very consistently. Tennessee's pass protection has been phenomenal this season, but Vanderbilt has the pass rush to get behind the line to stuff the mediocre ground game on a consistent basis. The Commodores lead the SEC and are fourth in the nation in tackles for loss, cranking up 14 last week against the Rebels and have come up with double-digit plays behind the line in three of the last four weeks. On the other side of the ball, Vanderbilt should be able to throw without too much of a problem against a secondary that's getting lit up by everyone, giving up three touchdown passes or more in each of the last five games.

What To Watch Out For: The Commodores will be without a key piece of the puzzle. Star running back Zac Stacy has rushed for 769 yards and six touchdowns on the season, but he has been limited over the last three weeks with just 18 carries and a mere two carries for 17 yards against Ole Miss. Freshman Brian Kimbrow has taken on more of the workload over the last three games and this week is expected to take on most of the workload. He ran for 137 yards and a score on 14 carries against Presbyterian, and he scored in blowouts over UMass and Kentucky.

What Will Happen: Tennessee will keep the season alive with a big day from Tyler Bray. The passing game will hit just enough big plays to come up with a solid overall effort to push a Vanderbilt defense that hasn't faced a good passing attack since losing to Georgia 48-3 back in September.

CFN Prediction: Tennessee 38 … Vanderbilt 31
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Vanderbilt -4 O/U: 60
Must Watch Rating (5 – Killing Them Softly, 1 – The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2): 3