The Vanderbilt Commodores travels to Tennessee for their final game of the season. Here are your three keys to a Commodore victory.
Who would have thought that both Vanderbilt and Tennessee would be 4-7 (0-7 SEC) heading into the final game of the season? I guess someone might have predicted it. The good news is that one of the two teams will be able to win a conference game by defeating its in-state rival. That will make the offseason much more bearable for the winning program. Hopefully, it'll be Vandy. Here are the keys. I feel like a broken record with some of this stuff.
1) WIN THE TURNOVER BATTLE
Vanderbilt started off the season with a stellar turnover rate, protecting the ball well while gaining a few turnovers to break over zero on the turnover margin. That has since regressed to a present margin of minus six, meaning Vanderbilt for the season has lost six more turnovers than it has gained. This UT offense has had problems scoring. Vandy needs to protect the ball and not provide the Vols with short fields for scoring.
2) STOP JOHN KELLY
Junior tailback John Kelly is one of the few bright spots on the UT offense. He's run for 758 yards and eight touchdowns and also has 36 receptions for 294 yards. He leads the Vols in rushing yardage, receptions and touchdowns scored. He's got a near perfect build for a running back and hits open holes hard and fast. The Commodore defense has to contain Kelly or he could beat Vandy in a similar manner as Benny Snell did for Kentucky a few weeks ago.
3) SPECIAL TEAM SHINE
Special teams have been attrocius for Vandy the past few games. Blocked kicks, muffed punts, opponent kick/punt returns for long gains or touchdowns, and such have put game scores out of reach for Vandy. Against UT the Dores need to shine on special teams. Punt/kick coverage units take notice. Get the job done. Vandy kickoff return units, if the ball is in or obviously going in the end zone don't return it; take the the 25-yard line spot. Too many times VU return men try to return the ball out of the end zone and the 'Dores end up starting at the 12-yard line or similar for a quick 3-and-out because the coaches want to be conservative due to being backed up near VU's goal line. How often have Vandy returner's made it past the 25-yard-line on a kickoff return? That's probably a single digit number for the entire season. How many offensive three and outs have there been after Vandy receives a kickoff? Probably over 20 of those at least. It's simple math and probability. You get the ball on the 25 and you are already 1/4th of the way to a touchdown. You get it on the 10 and you are 1/10th of the way to a TD. Which has more probability of resulting in a score?
Saturday's game starts at 3 pm CT and can be seen on the SEC Network.