The School: The University of Tennessee. Accredited from 1794-1861, 1911-1912.
Record: 5-6 (2-5 SEC). 5-7 in 2013.
Ranking: Tennessee is ranked 51st in the Real Time RPI (more than 50 spots in front of Vandy, who is 104th this week) and are ranked 66th in Warren Nolan's rankings (Vanderbilt is 115th).
Mascot: Smokey, a bluetick coonhound.
Location: Knoxville, TN. I had a friend who went from Carnegie Mellon to Knoxville. She insisted on calling it "KnoxVegas" in conversation and online. I suggested that a better name was "the south's premiere destination for people who throw rocks at trains" or "the nation's per-capita leader when it comes to buying single Bud Light bottles at a gas station" and she promptly blocked me. Maybe because my suggestions didn't really roll off the tongue? I don't know.
Conference: The SEC. Jesus, they'll just let anyone in.
All-Time vs. Vanderbilt: 73-29-5. Yeah, but...
In the past 10 years vs. Vanderbilt: 7-3. Well, yeah. But...
The Last Time We Saw These Guys:
A.J. Johnson (#45) puts his hands up just long enough to make dropping Patton in the backfield impossible. 'Dores win in Knoxville. Dave Hart calls Derek Dooley to fire him again, even though Dooley hasn't set foot in eastern Tennessee since October of 2012. People sleep restfully in Nashville.
Is Vanderbilt Favored?: Vanderbilt is a +17 underdog. Other +17 rivalry game underdogs include:
Nermal (vs. GARFIELD, FLIGHTS TO ABU DHABI, 1982-1999)
Heath Slater (vs. EVERY OTHER WRESTLER, ongoing)
Freaks and Geeks (vs. NBC, 2000)
ROBBIE CALDWELL (vs. diabetes, 2010)
CAREY SPEAR (vs. Cordarrelle Patterson, 2012)
Home team is listed in CAPS.
Most Potent Offensive Threat: Joshua Dobbs. The agile quarterback is running for more than 75 yards per game this season and averaging three total touchdowns per contest. His solid arm means that Vanderbilt won't be able to sell out against the run like they did against Florida - and even an improved defensive effort still allowed the Gators to score 34 points three weeks ago. Shutting down Dobbs would go a long way towards reestablishing Mason's reputation as a defensive mastermind.
Most Potent Defensive Threat: Derek Barnett. Barnett is returning home after leaving Brentwood Academy for the wilderness of east Tennessee, and the rugged terrain has clearly shaped him into a man. In 11 games the true freshman has ruined opposing offensive lines to the tune of nine sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss. He's going to do some bad things to Johnny McCrary on Saturday, the only question is how frequently.
Matchup to Watch: Johnny McCrary vs. Patton Robinette. McCrary is the starter. Robinette is the guy who beat UT last season. Joe Townsend thinks Vandy has to play both guys. Derek Mason almost certainly agrees. So who will be the most effective quarterback against the Vols? And who will get a leg up on the 2015 quarterback competition? From a physical standpoint, it's McCrary, but Robinette's scrambling and ability to sustain drives make this a close matchup.
Interesting Fact: There are no interesting facts about Knoxville, Tennessee, only depressing ones.