Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason has done something most Commodore head coaches haven’t. He’s led Vanderbilt to two wins over Tennessee in his four seasons at the helm of the Commodores’ ship, and he’s only the fourth head coach in Vanderbilt history since the 1920s to earn two wins over the Vols.
After losing his first two games against Tennessee as Vanderbilt’s head coach, Mason has led the Commodores to back-to-back victories over the Vols, and his Vanderbilt squad this year is looking to make that a three-game winning streak over their in-state rival. It would mark the first time since the Commodores had a seven-game winning streak over Tennessee in 1920-1926 that Vanderbilt would have greater than a two-game winning streak over UT if they pull off the win on Saturday.
There was once a point when the Vols dominated Vanderbilt in football. The Commodores only won seven games against Tennessee from 1938 till 2011. But since Vanderbilt’s victory in 2012, things have never been the same.
And according to Mason, he and his team have never felt like the “little brother” to Tennessee.
“Everybody thinks that we’re the little brother or little sister, however you want to look at it,” Mason said during his press conference on Tuesday. “We’ve never felt that way. I think it’s going to be a good football game based on the simple fact that these are two good football teams that have something to play for. We’re going to line it up, tee it up, and give Nashville, our city, an opportunity to see exactly what we’re made of.”
Vanderbilt is 4-2 against Tennessee over the last six contests, and many of those games haven’t been all that close. Three of Vanderbilt’s four victories over the Vols over the last six seasons have come by 11 or more points. The Commodores won by 23 points in 2012, won by 11 points in 2016, and won by 18 points last season.
Tennessee may have more talent on paper than Vanderbilt year in and year out, but the results speak for themselves.
“On paper, as you look at it, every year Tennessee is still in the top 10 in recruiting. I think last year they were in the top 20,” Mason stated. “On paper, if you’re going class for class, it’s still is what it is.
“Now when you start to talk about winning football games and how teams have played, it’s a little closer.”
According to the 247Sports recruiting rankings, Tennessee’s average recruiting class ranking in the 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 classes is 14th in the country. By those same ratings, Vanderbilt has averaged a finish of 52nd in the country. Yet the Commodores have won more than they’ve lost recently against Tennessee, and both are 5-6 heading into this season’s match-up.
Mason added that he has “a lot of respect for that team and Jeremy Pruitt” and pointed out the Vols’ talented skill position players on offense. He also stated that he “definitely expects” Jarrett Guarantano to be the starter at quarterback for the Vols. But while he has respect for Tennessee and the talent the Vols have on the roster, he believes in his team too. And Tennessee can rest assured that Vanderbilt won’t be backing down from the challenge on Saturday.
“We’ve got a lot of talent too,” Mason said. “We’re never going to back down from anything. We’re going to line up and play football.”
Tennessee and Vanderbilt will kick-off at 4:00 Eastern on Saturday, November 24th in Vanderbilt Stadium.