Three Keys Vanderbilt versus Tennessee

This scenario is the exact reason that the game between Vanderbilt and Tennessee was moved to the final game of the season as soon as the Wake Forest contract ended. In a game that means everything to the two schools, the ‘Dores will host the Vols with plenty on the line.

Tennessee needs a win to reach bowl eligibility and validate the rebuilding job Butch Jones is doing. Vandy on the other hand needs to win to put this disaster of a season behind them, maintain their recent dominance in the state, and to prove Derek Mason isn’t in over his head. Here is the final three keys of the season.

1) Stop the run

The Volunteers have some talent on offense, but the offense working revolves around the play of quarterback Joshua Dobbs. Dobbs is a dual threat talent who, if given time and space to work, can take a game over. Therefore the biggest single key for Vandy on Saturday has to be not allowing that time and space to materialize.

Tennessee don’t have the standout feature tailback that plenty of SEC teams do, so the game plan has to be based around destroying the read option game and keeping Dobbs in the pocket to win the game with his arm. It was a tactic used by Missouri last week, and Dobbs 24-0f-37 for 195 yards with a score and pick shows that it can be effective. Slowing down Dobbs will also slow down the Vols best running back Jalen Hurd because so much of his game is based on the misdirection of Dobbs. Stopping the run has not proven to be easy for this Vanderbilt team, but doing so this week will go a long way to stopping the Vols from reaching bowl eligibility.

2) Win the turnover battle

As 17 point underdogs it is clear that the ‘Dores will have to do something special to win this game outright. That has to include winning the turnover battle and giving the Vandy offense chances to score by controlling the battle of field position.

The problem is that Vandy just hasn’t been good at getting the ball off of their opponents this fall. The Commodores are 10th in the SEC in forced fumbles and last in interceptions. Much of this can be attributed to the number of young players on defense who are still working out the system and the scheme and are not yet able to just let their athletic ability take over to make plays. One of these games all of this will click and Vandy will start turning the ball over on defense. For the ‘Dores to have much of a chance it would be ideal if this day was Saturday.

3) Play (and coach) with the right attitude

This is it for Vanderbilt in 2014. There will be no bowl trip, even if it is just down the road, because the team has not been good enough this year. With that said it is imperative that the Commodores come out this weekend with the fire and passion to prove that they are up for this particular challenge.

Vanderbilt needs to come out early and make a statement of intent. The first couple of defensive possessions need to set the tone and forcing a turnover or a quick three and out would be massive when put in context. Derek Mason will never be James Franklin on the sidelines, but him showing genuine emotion and genuine drive in the game would also be huge. What cannot happen is for the ‘Dores to concede an early score and just fold. This Tennessee team is talented, but it is not the juggernaut that Mississippi State was last weekend. Let’s not make them look better than they are.

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