Managing editor Nathanael Rutherford and staff writer Ben McKee will “buy or sell” the likelihood of several things happening each week before a Tennessee football game. Here are their takes on the Vols’ match-up with the Vanderbilt Commodores in the regular season finale.
Buy or Sell: Jauan Jennings scores more than two touchdowns against Vanderbilt.
Nathanael: As much as Vol fans (and myself) would like to see Jennings score three or four touchdowns against Vanderbilt on Senior Day, I don’t think it’ll happen. I do, however, think he’ll get two scores on the day, which would still be a great way to end the regular season for him.
Ben: I’m selling just because three touchdowns is a hard task to accomplish. Especially when Jauan Jennings is in the same offense with two wide receivers – Josh Palmer and Marquez Callaway – that also deserve red zone targets. And I don’t think Jarrett Guarantano will purposefully target Jennings because its senior day, because that’s when mistakes happen. If he does score three touchdowns, he’ll have two receiving and one rushing out of the wildcat.
Buy or Sell: Tennessee has their highest rushing total against an SEC opponent this season when they play Vandy.
Nathanael: I’m torn on this. On one hand, Vanderbilt has the second-worst run defense in the SEC and is giving up over 200 yards per game on the ground. They’ve been gashed for 400 yards by Kentucky, 205 yards by South Carolina, 413 yards by Ole Miss, and 323 yards by Georgia. Tennessee’s season-high in rushing yards against an SEC foe isn’t all that high — just 190 yards against Mississippi State. On the other hand, though, the Vols have struggled to run the ball all season even against some weaker run defenses, and I think UT may try to throw the ball more to help send out Tennessee’s senior receivers on a high note.
With all that being said, I think I’m going to buy this, though. I think the Vols go over 200 yards passing and over 200 yards rushing on Saturday.
Ben: Sell. Tennessee won’t completely abandon the run, but I do believe there will be an emphasis on throwing the football in order to send Jennings and Callaway out on a high note. Plus, Tennessee’s passing attack is absolutely rolling, where as the rushing game has struggled in recent games.
Buy or Sell: More than 95,000 fans attend Saturday’s game.
Nathanael: I’d love to buy this one, but I don’t see it, not with it being Thanksgiving weekend and with a lot of UT students likely out of town, too. I do think there will be close to or slightly over 90,000 fans in attendance, but I’ll sell 95,000 being there.
Ben: Sell. I think they’ll be just short of 95,000 because it’s Thanksgiving weekend. There will still be a large, loud crowd for senior day, however.
Buy or Sell: This will be Trey Smith’s final game in Neyland Stadium.
Nathanael: I feel pretty confident in buying this one. Trey Smith has proven this season that his blood clots can be worked around enough for him to perform at an exceptionally high level. He should be a First Team All-SEC lineman at the end of this season. If I’m him, I don’t risk another year of college when I can be drafted into the NFL. As long as the NFL scouts and teams don’t red flag him because of his medical condition, I think this will be the last time he plays in Neyland Stadium.
Ben: Buy. If I’m Trey Smith, I’m not returning next season. That is assuming NFL personnel do not tell him that he won’t be drafted because of his medical condition. I don’t believe that will be the case though, as Smith has played great football all season long — the best of his career. Smith is a first round talent, and although his medical history won’t allow him to be a first round draft pick, he’s absolutely worth a late draft pick at minimum. Why return to school and risk not being drafted if the blood clots were to return? Go make some money now while you can.
Buy or Sell: This will be Jarrett Guarantano’s final game in Neyland Stadium.
Nathanael: I’ll sell this one. A month ago — even just a couple weeks ago — I would probably have bought this one. But now, with how the second half of this season has played out and with comments Guarantano has made about next season, I think he’ll be back and will likely be Tennessee’s starting quarterback again next year, too.
Ben: Sell. The Jarrett Guarantano that has played against Mississippi State, South Carolina, UAB, Kentucky, and Missouri is the best option for Tennessee at quarterback moving forward. That includes next season as well. Harrison Bailey or Brian Maurer may prove to be better quarterbacks in the long run, but why rely on a true freshman or true sophomore next year when you have a veteran quarterback that has plenty of playing experience? When he’s at his best, Guarantano is one of the better quarterbacks in the conference. Guarantano may want a fresh start, but I don’t think there’s a better situation for him in the country that will be available than spending a second season with Jim Chaney. If I’m Jeremy Pruitt and Chaney, I’m doing everything I can to make sure he’s a Vol next year.
Buy or Sell: The Vols will run up the score if given the opportunity.
Nathanael: 100 percent buy. If the Vols have a chance to run up the score, I’d be pretty surprised if Jeremy Pruitt doesn’t do it. That doesn’t mean there will be an opportunity to do so, but if there is, I don’t expect to see Pruitt, Derrick Ansley, and Jim Chaney calling off the dogs in the second half, at least not initially. Even if all the starters are pulled by the end of the third quarter, I would expect the coaches to tell the backups to just keep at it and keep the gas pedal pressed down to the floor.
Tennessee has been embarrassed by Vanderbilt over the last three years. If the Vols have a chance to add insult to their revenge, I fully expect them to take that chance.
Ben: Buy. Pruitt has already proven he’s willing to prove a point when he called a timeout last week against Missouri to make Barry Odom and the Tigers sit there and stare at the scoreboard a little bit longer. With Pruitt’s frustration pent up from last year’s game, and the frustration with the Vanderbilt series from Tennessee’s football program over the last couple of seasons, I expect the Vols to add a little salt to the score on Saturday.