Vandy offense equals UT's

The big difference between 8-2 Tennessee and 2-9 Vanderbilt heading into Saturday's home finale is that the Commodore defense hasn't carried its share of the load. Vandy's offense has been every bit as effective as the Vols' attack ... maybe moreso.

Vanderbilt averages 20.5 first downs per game to Tennessee's 19.8. The Commodores average 366.7 total yards per game to UT's 369.0. Moreover, the rush/pass breakdowns are virtually identical. Vandy averages 146.8 rushing yards to Tennessee's 145.2 and 219.9 passing yards to UT's 223.8. Vanderbilt has a slight edge in time of possession (30:09 to 29:24) and UT has a slight edge in third-down efficiency (39.0 to 38.8 percent).

Tennessee averages more points per game than Vandy (28.3 to 21.4) but that's largely due to two unusually high-scoring games — last weekend's 59-21 blowout of Mississippi State and a five-overtime 51-43 defeat of Alabama. If you discount those two games, UT averages a mere 18.1 points per game.

And there's no doubt that the Commodores' offense is more versatile than Tennessee's. Whereas the Vols pretty much stick to the basic I-formation, Vanderbilt throws everything but the kitchen sink at its opponents, including a lot of the option series.

''They're the most multiple team we've seen this year,'' Vol defensive coordinator John Chavis says. ''They'll run a lot of two-back (sets), they'll run a lot of one-back (sets), then they'll spread you out and give you empty (no-back backfield), and do a lot of things with the quarterback (Jay Cutler). When they do those things, it's like having another tailback in the backfield.''

Like Tennessee, Vanderbilt relies on a 1-2 punch at tailback, where Norval McKenzie has unseated last year's SEC Freshman of the Year, Kwane Doster. McKenzie has rushed for 615 yards with a 4.0 per-carry average. Doster, who missed one game due to injury, has run for 385 yards with a 4.3 per-carry average.

''They have good skill at tailback,'' Chavis says. ''They had the Freshman of the Year in the SEC lat year, and he's back and healthy.''

The Commodores also have two quality receivers in Erik Davis (38 catches for 627 yards and 8 touchdowns) and Brandon Smith (38 catches for 577 yards and 2 TDs).

''Davis is the one that stands out the most,'' Chavis says. ''He catches the ball and runs really good routes.''

Vandy's success on offense, however, starts with Cutler, a 6-4, 218-pounder who probably combines passing and running skills better than any other quarterback in the SEC.

''He's a very bright young man who throws well and runs,'' UT head man Phillip Fulmer says. ''He's a very impressive player. He's a sophomore making his 22nd start; that tells you something right there.''

Inside Tennessee Top Stories