Morris: Stakes high on Saturday in Knoxville

Vanderbilt heads east on Saturday to take on the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium. This game is very important for both teams. If the Volunteers win the game against Vanderbilt and next week against Kentucky, they will play for the SEC Championship in Atlanta. The Commodores need at least one more win to become bowl eligible.

With the possibility that 10 SEC teams could end up with 6 wins, the Commodores might need to win 7 games to be guaranteed a bowl bid. The stakes are high for Saturday's game.

The Volunteers feature a very balanced offense. They are averaging 155.8 yards per game on the ground and 241.9 yards per game through the air. The key to their offense is quarterback Erik Ainge. Ainge was really struggling until David Cutcliffe returned to Knoxville to be the offensive coordinator for the Vols. Cutcliffe has helped remove the gun slinger attitude from Ainge. Ainge has become a very smart quarterback and will probably be a first day draft pick in next year's NFL draft.

Ainge has thrown 17 touchdowns to just 5 interceptions on the season. He is completing 64.1 percent of his passes. The best way to rattle Ainge is to pressure him. Ainge is very efficient if he is allowed to sit in the pocket. He can, however, revert back to his old ways when he is under pressure. If the front four can get after Ainge like they did Andre Woodson, they will force him to take some chances and turn the ball over.

The Volunteers have a very good running back in Arian Foster. Foster is averaging 88.3 yards per game and 5.5 yards per carry. The Commodores will need a good game from their linebackers to keep Foster from breaking off big runs. The Volunteers will try to have success with the run early to set up the play action pass. If the Commodores' defense can keep the Volunteers from successfully running the ball, it will make the play action pass a lot less effective.

The Commodores will need to have success in the running game on Saturday. The Volunteers defense is bad against the run. They are giving up 163.6 yards per game on the ground and 4.4 yards per rushing play. The Commodores should give the Volunteers a heavy dose of Cassen Jackson-Garrison and Jeff Jennings early in the game on Saturday. Jackson-Garrison and Jennings will see the bulk of the workload with Jared Hawkins out because of the injury he suffered in the Kentucky game.

The Volunteers defense is a little better against the pass. They are allowing 236.5 yards per game through the air. The Commodores should look to get Earl Bennett involved in the offense early. He proved once again last week that he is the man when the Commodores need a big play.

The winner of this game will be the team who can control the line of scrimmage. Both teams look to run the ball first and then pass. Whichever team ends the game with the most yards rushing will most likely be the team that comes out ahead on Saturday.


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