Today's tough task

One of the toughest tasks facing Tennessee's football team each year is getting up for Vanderbilt, and tonight's game at Dudley Field figures to be no different.

Here's why:

- The Vols have won 26 of the past 27 meetings. The loss came in 2005, when the Commodores had a first-round NFL draft pick (Jay Cutler) at quarterback. The 2010 Dores do not have a first-round NFL draft pick at quarterback.

- The Vols have won 13 consecutive meetings in Nashville.

- The Vols' recent wins in the series included scores of 30-0 (1985), 49-20 (1990), 45-0 (1991), 62-14 (1993), 65-0 (1994), 41-0 (1998), 38-10 (1999), 38-0 (2001), 24-0 (2002), 48-0 (2003), 39-10 (2006).

- The 2010 Commodores are 2-8 and riding a five-game losing streak. They rank dead last among the 12 SEC teams in total offense (280.3 yards per game), total defense (437.2 yards per game) and scoring offense (18.0 points per game). They are 11th in scoring defense (31.6 points per game).

To their credit, Tennessee's players are saying all of the right things about tonight's game. They promise to be just as focused for the Commodores as they were for Oregon, Florida, LSU, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina. They insist it isn't difficult getting motivated for Vandy.

"With me, it's not tough at all," junior tailback Tauren Poole said. "I take the same approach: I have to bring it every single play."

Still, Poole isn't sure all of his teammates feel the same way, noting that the key for Tennessee is "getting the young guys in that mentality to where they're going to bring it, no matter who you play. That's going to be hard because they haven't been in a situation where they played a less talented team. But I think these coaches will have us ready."

Sophomore cornerback Prentiss Waggner thinks all of the Vols are taking this game quite seriously.

"We always talk about Vanderbilt," he said. "No matter what their record is, we know they're going to face Tennessee real hard. It's pretty much their bowl game."

Although the Vols have dominated the series for the past quarter-century, they haven't dominated on the scoreboard lately. They won 38-33 in 2004, lost 28-24 in 2005, survived 25-24 in 2007, won 20-10 in 2008 and prevailed 31-16 in 2009. So, except for that 39-10 romp in 2006, the last six games have been competitive.

Many observers believe the Vols bring out the best in the Commodores.

"This is their bowl game; we know that," Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said this week. "We're trying to get our second win in the SEC, so there shouldn't be any reason to be thinking that we're going to go in there and roll through it."

Tennessee (4-6 overall, 1-5 SEC) won its last two games via an all-out aerial assault - passing for 379 yards in a 50-14 drubbing of Memphis and for 323 yards in a 52-14 trouncing of Ole Miss. Dooley expects the Commodore pass defense to be a little less accommodating.

"I don't think they're going to give us opportunities to just chuck the ball around over their head like the other teams have," the Vol coach said.

That remains to be seen. Statistically, Vandy's pass defense is roughly on par with Memphis and Ole Miss. The Dores rank 99th among 120 major-college teams in pass-efficiency defense with a 141.62 rating, whereas Ole Miss (144.54) is 102nd and Memphis (173.06) is 119th. The Dores are tied with Ole Miss for 95th in passing yards allowed per game (241.0). Memphis (285.2) checks in at 117th.

Those statistics suggest Tennessee should have another big day throwing the football as it claws its way toward bowl eligibility. Dooley isn't concerned about bowl bids just yet, however.

"No," he said. "We've won one SEC game, so we have zero margin of error. We're going on the road, and we haven't won an SEC game on the road. There's a lot to play for this week.

"We know it (bowl opportunity) is out there. We know if we lose, we don't (go). If we win, we've got another chance next week."

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