Here's a recap of the last seven meetings:
1998: Tennessee 41, Vandy 0
1999: Tennessee 38, Vandy 10
2000: Tennessee 28, Vandy 26
2001: Tennessee 38, Vandy 0
2002: Tennessee 24, Vandy 0
2003: Tennessee 48, Vandy 0
2004: Tennessee 38, Vandy 33
For those keeping score at home, that's an average score of 36-10. If you count only the games played in Knoxville (1999, 2001, 2003) the average score was 41-3. Sure, Tennessee has fallen on hard times, but not THAT hard.
It's absolutely true that Vanderbilt gave Tennessee fits last year. But the Commodores had a running attack back then, and the Vols had a young and inconsistent defense. This year, neither has either.
Vanderbilt's best running back, Kwane Doster, was tragically gunned down during the off-season. Jeff Jennings is out with a season-ending knee injury and Steven Bright is questionable due to a shoulder injury.
Given the situation at tailback, Vandy coach Bobby Johnson wasn't kidding when he noted: "Probably those fullbacks are going to have to play a bunch."
I'll readily concede that Jay Cutler is the SEC's best quarterback. But, with no ground support, he'll be a sitting duck for Tennessee's all-out pass rush.
As Johnson put it: "When we've run the ball fairly well and made people respect the run a little bit, that has opened up the pass a little bit."
The Vols won't respect the run. Instead, they'll pin their ears back and tee off on Cutler the way Tiger Woods tees off on a long par-5.
The 2005 Vols are a disappointment, so go ahead and be mad. But be angry mad, not crazy mad. Even at their worst, they're still better than the Commodores.