The School: The University of Tennessee
Record: 7-4 (4-3 in the SEC).
Ranking: 37th in the AP Top 25 and unranked in the Coaches' Poll. The formulas have Texas A&M rated 37th in the Real Time RPI (Vandy is 91st, because apparently a Senior Day shutout loss is meaningless to the RPI). They are ranked 40th in Warren Nolan's power rankings (Vandy is #91).
Every measure has Tennessee ranked behind Texas A&M, yet the Vols are a three-possession favorite over Vandy while the Aggies finished as a 3.5-point pick. Even Vegas knows this rivalry is real, even without a name (My suggestion? NERDS VS. TURDS).
Mascot: The Volunteers.
Location: Knoxville, TN. Obnoxious people like to call it "Knox Vegas." Do not do this. The only thing that Las Vegas and Knoxville have in common is that you're going to want to punch an obnoxious person who is wearing a button down shirt and Oakleys within 90 minutes of arriving in either city.
Coach: Butch Jones, who my Cincinnati alumni friend (and former male cheerleader) assures me is going to fall apart "any day now." Still waiting, Jason.
Conference: The ESS-EEE-CEE. Anytime you want to make fun of UT's academics and act like they're bringing down the prestige of the SEC, just remember:
1. The Southeastern Conference cares about learning like fish care about airline prices.
2. Tennessee still ranks eighth academically in the conference, in part because they let Mississippi operate colleges.
All-time vs. Vanderbilt: 74-30-5. Eeeesh. Cyprus had a better record against the Ottomans.
In the Last 10 Years vs. Vanderbilt: 7-3. Right on pace.
The Last Time We Saw These Guys: Most of the support behind "Derek Mason for Defensive Coordinator" started with the 2014 game against UT. Mason usurped David Kotulski's role and called the defensive plays for most of VU's 24-17 loss (we scored 17 points? Nice). Patton Robinette threw for 131 yards and a touchdown but Johnny McCrary completed just two of seven attempts and Josh Grady even got a chance to throw the ball in the disheveled Vandy offense.
On the plus side, Vanderbilt held UT to only 262 total yards, giving Mason some hope for the future. Of course, that's more than 110 more yards than Vandy had last week, so adjust those expectations accordingly.
Is Vandy Favored?: No, but as a 17.5 point underdog and with an over/under of 40.5, that at least suggests bettors think we'll score some points. So, you know, baby steps.
Most Potent Offensive Threat: Jalen Hurd is the 6'4", 240 pound accidental byproduct of that time Kraft foods attempted to combine the lean protein of the fleet footed ostrich with the texture-rich meat of the powerful and remorseless rhinocerous. Though the final result was never cleared for Lunchables use by the FDA, scientists were able to combine the various sweepings into a humanoid shape and enroll him at a Hendersonville area high school. Only Tennessee has the meat science knowledge to keep him alive, and in turn the Rhinocerstrich gained more than 1,000 rushing yards this season to show his appreciation.
Most Potent Defensive Threat: All-SEC defensive end Derek Barnett is going to do some bad, bad things to the Vanderbilt offensive line on Saturday. Andy Ludwig is planning to limit his pass rushing impact by running the ball 75 times.
Matchup to Watch: Vanderbilt's quarterbacks vs. service academy-style passing stats. Against Texas A&M, Vanderbilt passed for 23 yards. Against Houston it was 44 yards. Against Florida? 30 YARDS. Keenan Reynolds is Navy's quarterback. The Midshipmen pass for fewer yards than all but one team in the nation. He's had two different games this season in which he's passed for more total yards than the Commodores in those three games combined. That's...not good.
Interesting Fact: There is nothing interesting about Knoxville, Tennessee.
Bonus Fact!: Caleb Azubike spent a lazy Sunday afternoon trolling Tennessee fans this summer, proving that no one cares more about the opinions of a 21-year old they've never met before than the people who know all the words to "Rocky Top."
If THEY win, we: burn everything east of Murfreesboro.