Vanderbilt Commodores (2-9, 3-5-1 ATS) at Tennessee Volunteers (5-5, 5-4 ATS) Neyland Stadium Knoxville, T.N. Saturday November 21st, 7:00PM Eastern
By Jay Horne of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Vanderbilt +16.5/Tennessee -16.5
Off the field issues may have been the only thing that could have slowed down the Volunteers momentum of recent weeks and that is exactly the events that transpired over the last 7 days. Heralded freshman Nu’Keese Richardson and two other players were arrested just 2 days before their meeting with the Mississippi Rebels for attempted armed robbery. If the loss of those 3 players was not enough, certainly the distraction was enough to sidetrack the Volunteers. Tennessee had won 3 of their previous 4 games blowing out solid teams like Georgia and South Carolina while also nearly pulling off the biggest of upsets against Alabama.
However after those transpiring events last week, the Volunteers were crushed by Mississippi falling 42-17 by far their biggest defeat of the season. The Volunteers now return home while treading at the .500 mark at 5-5 on the year. Tennessee will host the Vanderbilt Commodores in a late night SEC showdown as they will seek their 6th win which would make the Vols bowl eligible in Lane Kiffin’s first season.
The Commodores on the other hand just can not figure things out as they have dropped 7 straight games. Coach Bobby Johnson’s Commodores caught the SEC by surprise a year ago, but they have quickly fallen off the radar in 2009. Vanderbilt is now in jeopardy of falling to their worse record since 2004 which is even worse considering the Commodores have very rarely had any winning seasons. However, the Commodores will get their chance to at least end the year on a good note if they can take down Tennessee if their last outing of the year.
Vanderbilt’s problems have been simple and that is the offense. The offense has managed just 16.4 points per game and just 308 yards of total offense. Despite having a defense that could be respectable, the offense can’t keep the defense off the field. QB Larry Smith has not performed well over the season completing just 46% with 4 scores and 7 picks. Those problems led the Commodores to give senior Mackenzi Adams his chance behind center once again.
However, Adams has not been the solution completing just 50% with 1 score and 2 picks in recent weeks. The only player that has been able to move the ball at all this season has been freshman running back Warren Norman. Norman has 710 yards on the season while carrying for 5.5 yards per pop. However, Norman has been about the only part of the offense that has been able to do anything and it simply has not been enough. If the passing game does not get involved, the Commodores will be in for another long day.
The reason is because Tennessee has been pretty solid against the run. Outside of letting Dexter McCluster run wild for 282 yards last week, the Volunteers have played really well especially against traditional style running backs. The entire Tennessee defense is allowing just 314 yards per game and playing well. The pass defense is even better ranking 13th nationally allowing just 171 yards per game. The secondary should make things extremely difficult for the Commodores quarterbacks as they have not been able to move the ball against anyone. If they Adams or Smith continue inconsistency, Tennessee will pick off a few passes.
The Volunteers offense is led by senior Jonathan Crompton at quarterback. Despite an up and down career, Crompton has gone 3 straight games without an interception for the first time in his career while posting 9 touchdowns in the process. With Crompton playing well, the Volunteers offense posses a bigger threat to defenses. Running back Montario Hardesty is averaging 5 yards per carry and is just under the 1,000 yard mark on the season with 956 total yards. Hardesty has really carried the offense in their wins this season and that will likely be the scenario against as he will attack the SEC’s worse rush defense that is allowing 197 yards per game.
Jay’s Pick - Tennessee -16.5.