Let's skip with the pleasantries. We know what tomorrow is. We know what's at stake; the opportunity to keep Tennessee from a bowl game and the chance to extend Vandy's winning streak over the Vols to three. Both are big deals in Nashville.
But, if you're like me, you've spent most of the 2014 season averting your eyes whenever the creamsicle-colored tribe from the bad part of the state pops up on television. In my mind, the Vols feature a still-wheezing Cordarelle Patterson on kick returns and are led by the quarterback whose completion rates were better with beer bottles than footballs, Tyler Bray. In football heaven, it's 2012 all over again.
Unfortunately, that's (probably) not the case anymore. So, to break down Saturday's matchup, I enlisted the help of an expert. Hunter Turner is a big shot over at Rocky Top Talk, SBNation's Tennessee headquarters. He's also an occasional commenter in the AoG archives as well. He was nice enough to sit down with me and talk Volunteer football despite dealing with various madnesses related to Thanksgiving. Here's what he had to say about Tennessee in 2014:
1. What's more important for Tennessee fans on Saturday - securing bowl eligibility, or beating a Vanderbilt team that has injected a little bit more life into this cross-state rivalry in the past three seasons?
2. Joshua Dobbs is a dynamic dual-threat quarterback that can extend drives, but he had his least effective game of the 2014 campaign against Missouri last week. How did the Tigers limit him to just 13 rushing yards despite 17 carries?
3. Jalen Hurd has been a solid starter as a freshman tailback in the SEC. What do you expect to see out of him in his return to middle Tennessee? Can Vandy fans expect to see a heaping dose of carries if the Vols run out to an early lead?
4. Tennessee has given up 29 points or more in five of their six losses this season. They've scored 34 or more in each of their five wins. Are these Volunteers equipped - athletically and in terms of leadership - to win a sloppy, grinding, and potentially ugly rivalry game?
5. Johnny McCrary has been a solid quarterback when he's gotten time to plant his feet and find targets downfield. Unfortunately, a shoddy Vandy offensive line has kept that from being a consistent reality. Does Tennessee have the pass rushing capability to keep him backpedaling and dealing with pressure all afternoon in Nashville?
6. Finally, what's your prediction for Saturday's game?