Rivalry week in the SEC brings college football fans a matchup between the Vanderbilt Commodores (4-7, 2-5) and the Tennessee Volunteers (7-4, 4-3) Saturday afternoon. The Volunteers have taken seven of the last nine meetings, including a 24-17 win on the road on November 29, 2014 in the most recent matchup. Vanderbilt covered the line in that game as a 15 point underdog.
Vanderbilt lost for the third time in four games as they were blanked 25-0 by Texas A&M at home last Saturday. Tennessee has won four straight after going on the road and beating Missouri 19-8 in a defensive struggle last week. Kickoff from Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee is scheduled for 4:00 pm ET and will be televised on the SEC Network. Tennessee is currently favored by 18 points in this contest with the over/under set at 41.5 points.
Free Pick on the Vanderbilt Commodores +18 (if playing straight up, take the Tennessee Volunteers)
Vanderbilt’s struggles to put points on the board continued as they were blanked by Texas A&M last week. The Commodores only allowed one touchdown but did give up six field goals as they were outgained 482-148 in the game. Vanderbilt lost the first down battle 22-10 while they did take the time of possession contest by a 31:09 to 28:51 margin. The Commodores committed the game’s only turnover and penetrated no deeper than the Texas A&M 24 yard line in the contest; they immediately took a sack to move them back.
The Commodores are 112th in the nation in passing offense (168.5 yards) and 96th in rushing offense (150.4 yards) per game on the year. Vanderbilt is averaging 13.5 points per game, which is tied for 122nd in the nation; they are fairly stingy defensively as they are currently 14th in the nation in scoring defense by allowing 18.1 points per game. Johnny McCrary is running the show for Vanderbilt; he has hit 146 of 267 passes for 1,533 yards with six touchdowns and 12 picks while adding 186 yards and two scores on the ground. Kyle Shurmur is the backup quarterback; he has hit 29 of 69 passes for 294 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Ralph Webb is the team’s leading rusher as he has carried the ball 256 times for 1,003 yards and five scores; Darrius Sims is next in line with 40 carries for 231 yards. Trent Sherfield leads Vanderbilt with 45 receptions for 574 yards and two scores; Webb has caught 21 passes out of the backfield while Caleb Scott has 22 grabs for 278 yards and two scores. Tight end Steven Scheu has 24 receptions for 218 yards but hasn’t been involved as much as one would have expected. Tommy Openshaw has hit all 10 extra points and booted 12 of 19 field goals on the season with a long of 49 yards; he’s hit 7 of 10 attempts from between 40 and 49 yards.
Tennessee put together a solid defensive performance as they kept Missouri off the scoreboard until the fourth quarter. They did enough offensively before that point to ensure a victory. The Volunteers outgained the Tigers 337-223, won the first down battle 19-10 and controlled the clock as they held the ball 36:18 to Missouri’s 23:42 in the game. In addition, Tennessee forced a pair of turnovers while playing turnover free ball themselves. Aaron Medley booted four field goals for the Volunteers in the victory.
The Volunteers are currently 92nd in the nation in passing offense with an average of 199.6 yards per game; they are 24th in the nation in rushing offense by putting up 213.7 yards per game. Tennessee is tied for 46th in the nation in scoring offense as they average 32.6 points per game while they stand tied for 22nd in the nation in scoring defense by allowing 20.5 points per contest. Joshua Dobbs is the primary signal caller for the Volunteers; he’s hit 178 of 298 passes for 1,985 yards with 13 touchdowns and five interceptions while ranking third on the team with 530 yards and eight scores on the ground. Jalen Hurd is the lead back in the 1-2 power combination at running back for the Volunteers as he has 234 carries for 1,038 yards and 10 scores; Alvin Kamara (80 carries, 546 yards, 6 TD) is the second back in that setup. Josh Malone is tied for second on the team with 29 receptions for 388 yards and two touchdowns while Kamara has collected 29 grabs out of the backfield. Ethan Wolf (21 catches, 277 yards, 2 TD), Von Pearson (team high 33 receptions, 337 yards, TD) and Josh Smith (19 catches, 257 yards, 2 TD) are secondary targets when Dobbs drops back to throw. Aaron Medley has kicked all 44 extra points but has hit only 17 of 26 field goal attempts this season with a long of 45 yards after hitting 20 of 26 as a freshman.
Vanderbilt is 4-0 ATS in their last four after a straight up loss, 6-0 ATS in their last six after picking up less than 275 yards of offense and 12-3 ATS in their last 15 road games against teams with a winning home record. Tennessee is 1-4 ATS in their last five in November and 0-4 ATS in their last four against teams with a winning record.
The Volunteers should have little issue winning this game straight up but it’s tough to gauge them as a 18 point favorite. Vanderbilt does have issues scoring points but their defense keeps games close enough for the Commodores to hang in and cover the line. That likely will be the trend here: Tennessee wins outright but Vandy hangs close enough to stay within the point spread.