Title week

Last week was "Tiger Week" for the Tennessee Vols, as they faced the Auburn Tigers on Wednesday and the Memphis Tigers on Saturday.

This week is "Title Week." Tennessee's stated goal for 2007-08 is to win the program's first outright SEC regular-season title in 41 years, and that title is there for the taking if the Vols can beat Vanderbilt Tuesday at Nashville and Kentucky Sunday at Knoxville.

Here's why:

Tennessee (11-1 in SEC play) holds a two-game lead over Kentucky (9-3) and Mississippi State (9-3) in the league standings, plus a three-game lead over Vanderbilt (8-4).

Beating Vanderbilt will give the Vols a four-game lead over Vandy with three games to play, mathematically eliminating the Commodores from the championship race.

Beating Vandy AND Kentucky this week would improve the Vols to 13-1 and drop the Cats to 10-4 (assuming they beat Ole Miss Wednesday night in Lexington). That will give Tennessee a three-game lead on the Big Blue with just two SEC games to play, eliminating UK from the championship picture.

Vol wins versus the Commodores and the Wildcats is likely to eliminate Mississippi State from the title chase, as well. The Bulldogs should beat Auburn Wednesday night in Starkville but they will be underdogs Saturday at Florida. If MSU loses at Gainesville, it will slip to 10-4 and fall three games off UT's pace with just two games to play – eliminating the Bulldogs from title consideration.

Even if Mississippi State manages to win at Florida, the Bulldogs face another imposing road test at Vanderbilt (March 5) before closing the regular season at home against LSU (March 8).

Here's the outlook in a nutshell: If Tennessee beats Vandy and Kentucky this week, the Commodores and Cats are eliminated, and Mississippi State will have to sweep its last four games – including two stern SEC road tests – merely to earn a share of the regular-season title.

Bottom line: It's Title Week for Tennessee.


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