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Prediction Panel: Tennessee vs. Vanderbilt

Photo by Anne Newman/RTI

The RTI team makes their picks for the Vols’ match-up with the Vanderbilt Commodores this upcoming Saturday. Managing editor Nathanael Rutherford and staff writer Ben McKee share their predictions for the Vols’ final game of the regular season.

Nathanael’s Pick

Remember those really bad Vanderbilt teams back in the 1990s and mid-2000s? This year’s Vandy squad would fit right in with those teams.

The Commodores don’t do much of anything very well. They’re in the bottom of the SEC in every major statistical category both on offense and defense. They’ve been run over on the ground, scorched through the air, and pummeled by opposing defenses.

Somehow, Vanderbilt has three victories this year, and one of them, against all odds, has come against an SEC team. The Commodores have victories over Northern Illinois, Missouri, and ETSU. Otherwise, they’ve been outscored 321-105 in their eight losses. Vandy has been outscored 259-92 in SEC play heading into Saturday’s contest.

There’s a lot I could say about this game, a lot of numbers I could provide, and a lot of analysis I could give you. But none of what I’d say would change these two facts: The Vols are playing much better than when they started this season, and Vanderbilt is easily the worst team in the SEC East.

Tennessee has every reason to win and win big on Saturday. Not only are the Vols the better team, not only is it senior day, and not only would a win give UT a better than .500 regular season record for only the fourth time since Phillip Fulmer was fired as head coach, but Tennessee has been absolutely embarrassed by Vanderbilt over the last three years. The Commodores have won and won big against the Vols the last three seasons, and they’ve let UT know it.

If the Vols don’t win by at least three touchdowns on Saturday, it’ll be a big disappointment to Vol fans. Luckily, I think that’ll happen.

Tennessee can’t overlook Vanderbilt, because other UT teams that had no business losing to the Commodores have gone and lost to Vandy in the past. But none of those Vanderbilt teams were as bad as this year’s, and I highly doubt the Vols are overlooking the Commodores this season.

Bring an umbrella, because it’ll be raining points from the Tennessee offense on Saturday.

Pick: 41-13, Tennessee

MVP: Jauan Jennings, Tennessee WR

I know both Ben and I are picking the same MVP, but I’d be stunned if anyone else other than Jennings has the biggest day on Saturday. The only other players I could think of other than him would be Jarrett Guarantano or Daniel Bituli. But I’m still going to go with Jennings.

Ben’s Pick 

Saturday is going to be an absolute blowout. Not only is Tennessee a much more talented team than Vanderbilt, but the Vols are better coached, its senior day, the environment in Neyland Stadium is going to be raucous, and there’s a lot of pent-up frustration on the Vols’ side in regards to the rivalry.

Vanderbilt is not a good football team — at all. Tennessee isn’t a college football playoff team, but there are several areas in this football game where the Vols have an advantage.

Starting with the defense, the Commodores are statistically one of the worst in the conference. Vandy is allowing the 13th-most points (32.1), 13th-most rushing yards (200.7), 12-most passing yards (237.6), and they have the 13th-worst total defense (438.4).

Jauan Jennings, Marquez Callaway and Josh Palmer all should have as big of a game as they had against Missouri last week, along with Jarrett Guarantano. UT’s offensive line should also be able to get the run going with Ty Chandler and Tim Jordan.

As bad as Vandy’s defense is, the offense is even worse. The Commodores score the fewest points (17.1) in the SEC, put up the fewest yards (301.2), rush for the 13th-fewest yards (128.9), and throw for the 13th-fewest yards (172.3). Jeremy Pruitt and Derrick Ansley should have a field day orchestrating Tennessee’s defense against an abysmal Vanderbilt offense.

The Commodores have three NFL talents in Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Jared Pinkey, and Kalija Lipscomb, but they rotate quarterbacks, aren’t strong up front, lack depth, and have zero defensive presence. Tennessee should flat out roll on Saturday. Anything less should be considered a disappointment.

Pick: 42-9, Tennessee

MVP: Jauan Jennings, Tennessee WR

There’s absolutely zero chance Jennings’ last game in Neyland Stadium doesn’t result in a big time performance. The senior wide receiver will score at least two touchdowns and go well over 100 receiving yards. There’s nobody on Vanderbilt’s defense that can compete with Jennings.

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