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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 23, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Neyland Stadium (102,455) -- Knoxville, Tennessee. Television: ESPN 2 of ESPN U. Home Record: Vanderbilt 4-2, Tennessee 4-2. Away Record: Vanderbilt 2-2, Tennessee 0-4. Neutral Record: Vanderbilt 0-0, Tennessee 0-0. Conference Record: Vanderbilt 3-4, Tennessee 1-5. Series Record: Tennessee leads, 73-28-5.
GAME NOTES: The Vanderbilt Commodores will attempt to extend their winning streak to a season-long three games on Saturday night, as they challenge long- time rival Tennessee at Neyland Stadium.
Vanderbilt has started the month of November off with back-to-back wins, claiming a road victory over Florida on Nov. 9 (34-17), and taking down last- place Kentucky last weekend (22-6) to improve to 6-4 overall and 3-4 in SEC action. The James Franklin-era of Commodores football has arguably been the high point of the program's history, as they earned bowl eligibility for the third straight season for the first time ever.
Tennessee has been trending in the opposite direction as its intrastate rival, as it has dropped three straight games to dip to 4-6 (1-5 SEC). The Vols most recently hosted Auburn on Nov. 9 and were blown out of their own building in a 55-23 final. The good news is that this will be the first time since Sept. 28 versus South Alabama that they have not played a ranked team.
The Vols have a handle on the all-time series with Vandy, 73-28-5, although the Commodores won last season's matchup in Nashville, 41-18.
Despite ranking just 10th in the SEC in yardage (371.2 ypg), the Commodores offense has been efficient in putting 31.3 points per game, and if they can keep the pace up through their final two games, it will be their highest- scoring season since World War II.
After missing nearly a month with a leg injury, Austyn Carta-Samuels returned under center in the win over Kentucky to complete 19-of-24 passes for 184 yards. On the season, the signal caller has completed 67 percent of his passes for 1,856 yards, and he has accounted for 15 touchdowns (five rushing) against only seven picks.
Jordan Matthews is one of the top receivers in the country, and his 83 receptions are 20 more than any other player in the SEC, and his 1,076 yards rank only behind Texas A&M's Mike Evans (1,263). Matthews is already the SEC's all-time leader in receiving yards with 3,358, and he needs just four more catches to break former Commodore Earl Bennett's league record of 236.
Jerron Seymour may not be a very explosive tailback -- he's gained 618 yards on 139 carries (4.4 ypc) -- but he has a nose for the end zone with 12 touchdowns. He has gone scoreless in the just two of 10 games this season.
Defensively, Vanderbilt is not as dominant as it was last season (18.7 ppg), but it has still played well enough in allowing 26.5 points and 372.5 yards per game while forcing 22 turnovers.
Kenny Ladler is one of the top safeties in the nation, as he has tallied 81 tackles, four interceptions and four forced fumbles. Javon Marshall (66 tackles, 5.0 TFL, sack, INT) has also played well in the secondary, while Kyle Woestmann (6.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks) and Caleb Azubike (9.5 TFL, 4.0 sacks) create pressure off the edge.
Playing a slew of strong defenses over the course of its treacherous schedule certainly hasn't help Tennessee's young squad, but the fact remains that it has one of the least productive offenses in the SEC (24.9 ppg, 358.6 ypg).
The Vols have struggled under center all season long, even more so since Justin Worley (1,239 yards, 10 TDs, eight INTs) went down with a thumb injury. Joshua Dobbs, a freshman, has made three appearances and two starts, completing 47-of-79 passes for 443 yards, but he has yet to throw a touchdown and has tossed three picks.
Rajion Neal brings a much-needed veteran presence to the offense, and he has paid dividends by ranking in the top-six in the SEC in carries (173), yards (895) and touchdowns (10). Marlin Lane (450 yards, four TDs) is also frequently utilized out of the backfield.
Alton Howard (357 yards, three TDs) leads the team in receptions with 40, while Marquez North (494 yards, TD) isn't far behind with 37. Neal is also reliable out of the backfield with 21 grabs.
The UT defense hasn't held up its end of the bargain either, as the unit ranks last in the SEC in points allowed per game (32.0), although it has proven to be rather opportunistic with 20 takeaways.
A.J. Johnson has racked up 84 stops and 5.5 TFL. Brian Randolph (61 tackles) is active in the turnover battle with three interceptions, as are Dontavis Sapp (FF, two FR), Cameron Sutton (two INT, two FR) and Brent Brewer (two INT, FF).
Tennessee should revel in the chance to play a less-than-elite team for a change, but even at home, the Vols have far too many holes to trust. With their quarterback at full strength, expect the Commodores' winning streak to continue.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Vanderbilt 33, Tennessee 27
11/20 10:44:30 ET
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