Three Key Matchups: Vanderbilt-Tennessee
Regardless of the outcome of Saturday's SEC East rivalry matchup between the Vanderbilt Commodores and Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville, the Commodores will be playing their final game of a disappointing season while the Vols will be heading to a bowl game after turning a dismal start into an encouraging season.
For the Commodores, they will look to make history on Saturday if they can notch their fourth consecutive win in this series. Tennessee will look to end that streak and add another to their current win streak which stands at four entering this game.
Both teams have covered the spectrum this season with both suffering inexplicable losses and somewhat surprising wins, but as a 21.5 point home favorite, the Vols want to make a statement by blowing out their in state rivals and avenge last years blowout win by Vanderbilt. Oh, and end that three game losing streak.
THREE KEY MATCHUPS
1) Juwan Jennings vs Vandy Secondary: The Vols have more than just Jennings at receiver, but he is the heartbeat and inspirational leader- not to mention a physical and touch guy- who the rest of the unit feeds off.
The Commodores secondary will have a tough time with he along with Marquez Calloway and Josh Palmer. Teams that have beaten UT this season have done a good job of either limiting, or taking Jennings out of the equation.
Kentucky managed to control him in the first half and held the lead, but when he began to make plays in the second half, the Vols won. Whether Vanderbilt matches up with him with one defender all over the field or they use some combination, Jennings is the one you need to stop on the outside.
2) Dayo Odeyingbo & Andre Mintz vs Wanya Morris & Darnell Wright: The Vols start two freshmen at tackle, both are talented, big and physical but both are still freshmen and have at times allowed defenses to beat them off the edge and create havoc in the backfield.
Odeyingbo and Mintz along with Kenny Hebert are capable of getting to the quarterback and sacking, hitting or affecting him on pass plays.
Whether it's straight pass rush, stunts or blitzes, Vanderbilt must get to the quarterback and make him uncomfortable. It's something Derek Mason mentions regularly, how "rush and cover" mesh together and it will be a key in this one.
3) Kalijah Lipscomb & Jared Pinkney vs Vols Secondary: Non-factors the majority of the season, Lipscomb and Pinkney are both as good as most any other player in the conference at their positions, but for multiple reasons both have had terrible seasons statistically. That has to change in this one.
Last week against ETSU, both players showed up and produced. It was the best game of the season for Pinkney and Lipscomb's contributions were key as well.
If these two can produce what they did last week and give quarterback Riley Neal some open, short, quick passes to stay in front of, and move the chains then the Commodores will likely find themselves in it in the fourth quarter.