Johnson's Commodores, fresh off a home SEC victory over Kentucky, hope to post back-to-back victories for the first time since 1999. But the Vols, who still hold out hopes for an SEC Championship and a BCS bowl, are a 21-point favorite.
"Last week's win sure did help everybody's attitude," said Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson. "Offensively we played well, defensively we played well, and we played well on special teams. Any time we do that, we have a better chance to succeed. Hopefully that will make us a little bit better, a little bit smarter, to try to get back in that position."
Vanderbilt, which snapped a 23-game SEC losing streak with last week's win, could snap two other long losing streaks with a win Saturday. Tennessee has won 20 straight games vs. Vandy in the series, and has won the last 13 meetings at Neyland Stadium. The last Vanderbilt win came in 1982; the last Vandy win in Neyland Stadium came in 1975.
One other SEC team, the Florida Gators, will be pulling hard for the Commodores Saturday. A Vanderbilt win would eliminate Tennessee from the SEC East championship race, and automatically vault Ron Zook's Gators into the SEC Championship Game Dec. 6. With one non-conference game left vs. Florida State, Florida (8-3, 6-2) is idle Saturday and has already finished its SEC games.
Meanwhile, Vanderbilt's men's basketball team opens its regular season Friday at 7 p.m. with a game vs. Belmont at the new, 5,000-seat Curb Event Center. On Monday, the team comes back to Memorial Gym to face Indiana in what should be one of the biggest home openers in years.
The Belmont opener is a dangerous game for a team that desperately needs to get off to a good start after finishing an 11-18 season a year ago. Bruins coach Rick Byrd is one of Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings' closest friends in the coaching profession.
"It's not necessarily a game that's great for our program," admits Stallings, who enters his fifth year. "But it was agreed upon, and anytime we can help Rick Byrd and his program, I'm happy to do it. We've just got to put ourselves in position where we can go over and hopefully play to the level of our capabilities."
Though the Indiana game on Monday has huge implications, Stallings says the team won't talk about it until Saturday.
"We won't have any discussions about Indiana until after the Belmont game," Stallings said. "At this point, the only thing that matters is our getting ready to play Belmont, and making sure that we're ready to play the best game we can."
Belmont, a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference, went 17-12 last season.
The Vanderbilt women's basketball team begins its regular season Friday evening in the Banknorth Classic in Burlington, Vt. The Commodores open with South Alabama at 5 p.m. CT, then meet either St. Francis (N.Y.) or host Vermont on Saturday in either the championship or consolation round.
South Alabama, under the direction of head coach Rick Pietri (entering his fourth season), enters the season fresh off a 19-11 record and the program's first Sun Belt Western Division title.