Devil's Advocate (Tennessee)

The most difficult aspect of explaining why Tennessee will beat Vanderbilt this weekend may be deciding where to start.

Do you start with the fact the weary Commodores will be playing their 12th game in 12 weeks without an open date?

Do you start with the fact head coach Bobby Johnson stands 3-22 in November games because of his team's ongoing depth problems?

Do you start with the fact the Commodores are 2-9 overall and 0-7 in SEC play?

Do you start with the fact Vandy averaged just 8.0 points per game against seven previous SEC foes with a high of 13 vs. Kentucky?

Do you start with the fact Tennessee has won 25 of the past 26 meetings?

Do you start with the fact the Big Orange will be observing "Senior Day" and giving emotional send-offs to guys such as Jonathan Crompton, Dan Williams, Rico McCoy, Montario Hardesty and Chris Scott?

Do you start with the fact the Vols are seeking redemption after getting their butts kicked 42-17 by Ole Miss last weekend?

Or do you start with the fact losing to Vanderbilt represents probably the ultimate insult for a UT football team? The 2005 Vols suffered this fate, and the players still around from that team vividly recall the setback.

"I definitely do," senior defensive tackle Dan Williams said. "Jay Cutler threw that touchdown pass to Earl Bennett (giving Vandy a dramatic 28-24 win). I remember it like it was yesterday. They kept us from going to a bowl game, kept us home at Christmas.

"That memory is in the back of my head, makes me want to make sure the guys are ready to play. I know Vanderbilt's going to be ready to play, and I don't want my last home game to be a loss."

Tennessee's coaches are trying to ensure that doesn't happen. They set the same high-energy tone in practice this week as they did when UT was preparing to face top-ranked Florida and unbeaten Alabama earlier this fall.

"The coaches approach every game the same," Williams said. "It's been the same from Western Kentucky to Florida to Alabama. We always have high energy. Some days we do have bad practices but when we don't meet Coach Kiffin's expectations he lets us know at the end of the day. We're never high one week and low one week."

After losing two of its first three home games this season, Tennessee has swept its last three - belting Georgia 45-19, trouncing South Carolina 31-13 and hammering Memphis 56-28.

The Vols appear to be re-establishing their dominance at Neyland Stadium, and head coach Lane Kiffin wants that trend to continue.

"We are really excited about this match-up and being able to come back home," he said. "We've started a little bit of a home winning streak. It would be great to end the season that way, to kick-start us into next season."


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