Whether he throws 66 passes or 26, Cutler looms as the key to Saturday's game. The 6-4, 228-pound senior is the Commodores' chief weapon, the one guy Tennessee must contain in order to win the game.
Cutler leads the Southeastern Conference in passing at 282 yards per game and in total offense at 296 yards per game. He has completed 55 percent of his passes for 1,974 yards and 13 TDs. He also has 224 rushing yards on 97 carries. Like Georgia's D.J. Shockley, he can hurt you with his arm or his feet.
"He's big, he's very accurate, he's got a strong arm and he releases it extremely well," Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer said. "He knows their offense inside and out. He has size, speed, toughness and the ability to throw the ball.
"He's a special player. We've thought for a couple of years he was the best quarterback in the league. He's a tough guy who runs the ball well. But obviously the passing game is his forte'."
Vol linebacker Jason Mitchell is another card-carrying member of the Jay Cutler fan club. He likes the Vandy quarterback's toughness and determination.
"Jay Cutler's a gamer," Mitchell said. "He can run, pass, whatever it takes for his team to win. And he obviously can manage a game. When you get a guy with all those things, he's very hard to stop. He's a guy that took a team with lesser talent in the league and they competed with everybody they went against. They took Florida to the wire. He's not going to back down. He's just a gamer."
Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson is understandably pleased with Cutler's performance this year. The senior QB has excelled as a passer, a runner and a leader.
"He's done it all," Johnson said. "He's been extremely efficient. He's run our offense about as good as you could possibly run it. He's been a great leader and he's stepped up every time we've asked him to do it. Any success we've had this year is largely due to Jay – not only his playing ability but also his leadership ability."
Last November Cutler burned Tennessee for 22 completions in 33 attempts for 314 yard and three TDs. The Vols held on to win 38-33 but defensive coordinator John Chavis hasn't forgotten Cutler's heroic effort.
"On Cutler, it starts with ability," Chavis said. "He's obviously got a good grasp of the offense. He knows where to go with the ball. He gets rid of it as quick as anybody we've seen. I think Cutler's a guy that will play on Sunday. His talent is there and he has a toughness about him that is very impressive."
P.S. – The Neyland Stadium record for pass attempts by an opponent is 61, set by Georgia Tech's Larry Good in 1968. With Cutler coming to town, that mark may be in jeopardy.