Stop the Run
Though Bruce Fowler's Vanderbilt defenses are often good, this year's unit has struggled in certain areas. Vanderbilt is last in the SEC in rush defense, and Kentucky was able to run the ball at will against the defense. Tennessee tailback Montario Hardesty is one of the best in the SEC, and Vanderbilt must shut him down and force inconsistent quarterback Jonathan Crompton to face one of the better secondaries in the league. Chris Marve, the leading tackler in the SEC, must continue what he has been doing, but he will need far better penetration from his defensive linemen. Greg Billinger and Broderick Stewart, two players that have been somewhat disappointing thus far, must penetrate Tennessee's offensive line for the Commodores to have any chance in this game.
Where's the offense?
The consensus is in. Vanderbilt's no-huddle offense has been a failure. The loss of starting quarterback Larry Smith hasn't helped matters. Mackenzie Adams looked pretty good in the first half against Kentucky, but Vanderbilt failed to throw a single pass in the third quarter, and Adams struggled in the fourth quarter. The receivers have been far from perfect. In fact, the only real bright spot of this offense has been freshman tailbacks Warren Norman and Zac Stacy. Simply put, Vanderbilt has not scored more than 13 points against an SEC opponent. They must score more than 13 to win any league game. Vanderbilt's offense needs to get better, and Commodore fans must hope that Warren Normon, the SEC record holder for kickoff return yardage in a single season, can run his fourth kickoff back for a touchdown.
Vanderbilt's sack total this year has not been what it has been. This season, Vanderbilt has totaled 20 sacks, after posting two consecutive years of 30 sacks per year. Though Jonathan Crompton is far from an elite quarterback, he has been improving as of late, and has proven that he can pick a defense apart if that defense is not careful, and if he has all day to throw. Once again, Steven Stone, Broderick Stewart, and Greg Billinger will be key to getting pressure on Crompton and forcing him into bad decisions.
Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson is 1-6 against Tennessee, but that one win did come at Neyland Stadium. Johnson and Kiffin have never met on the head coaching field. Kiffin is 5-5 in his collegiate head coaching career, and 5-15 in his NFL head coaching career.
Last Meeting: Tennessee 20 Vanderbilt 10 (2008 in Nashville)
Last Meeting in Knoxville: Tennessee 25 Vanderbilt 24 (2007)
First Meeting: Vanderbilt 12 Tennessee 0
Tennessee leads series 71-28-5, including 35-10-1 in Knoxville