Tennessee vs. Vandy — The Volquest staff picks

Tennessee heads to Nashville to take on Vanderbilt looking to bounce back after last week’s disaster and keep their New Year’s six bowl hopes alive. The Commodores are looking for their 6th win to get bowl eligible.

Can Tennessee get off the mat and rally for win number 10? The Volquest staff weighs in with their weekly picks.

Brent’s Pick

After my horrible pick last week, who the heck knows what’s going to happen this week. I mean it’s the worst year picking games for me maybe ever.

But we will get it one more good ole college try.

Tennessee enters this game beaten up physically and mentally after last week. Joe Milton takes over for Hendon Hooker. Milton has performed well this year in mop up duty. He’s definitely improved. But he’s not played a pressure down this season so how does he handle being the guy and who is he going to throw to. Cedric Tillman may or may not be available. Bru McCoy is questionable as well which could mean more Squirrel White and Ramel Keyton who Milton does have good chemistry with. Also Vanderbilt is terrible defending the pass.

The big question however is where is this defense after getting embarrassed last week. How do they bounce back and can they handle the perimeter run and passing game of Vanderbilt. I think Tim Banks’ guys have pride and will be ready to put last week behind them but you don’t know and it’s a defense that obviously has limitations in defending the pass. Tennessee must get pressure on the quarterback. No pressure and it’s a 7 on 7 game.

So what happens this week? I do think the culture in the program is good and I think this team has pride. I think last week was an unfortunate lesson in learning what it’s like to be hunted instead of the hunter. Last week was South Carolina’s super bowl, this week the Vols are Vanderbilt’s. I think Tennessee grasps that better now because of the disaster that was last week.

So I’m taking the Vols in a bounce back, but it won’t be pretty.

Tennessee 31 Vanderbilt 27

Austin’s Pick

Last week has made this week hard on everyone. To put it bluntly, it’s been a week full of one big pile of suck. The air went out of the big orange balloon but did the balloon pop or could it be patched? That’s the question everyone is waiting to see answered this Saturday night.

What has changed since last week? Look at how much things changed from directing the band to a season ending injury for Hendon Hooker. Can Tennessee get back up off the mat and deliver an exclamation point to a pretty magical season?

What will Joe Milton look like as the main course and not just the delightful dessert to close out a meal? In my opinion the Vols could easily be without Bru McCoy and Cedric Tillman this weekend.

Defensively is what most fans are eager and also scared to see all at the same time. I expect Jeremy Banks to play and I’d expect Tennessee to bring pressure on Vandy. The secondary is what it is at this point.

I said on the podcast on Tuesday that I wasn’t sure who I was picking…

I just can’t see the Vols losing this game and losing to South Carolina and Vanderbilt to close after that 8-0 start,

Vols 34 Vanderbilt 24

Rob’s Pick

Everyone is worried about how Tennessee will bounce back from a humiliating loss against a Vanderbilt team that is suddenly frisky after winning two in a row over Kentucky and Florida.

I get the concern.

The ‘Dores are playing to get bowl eligible under Clark Lea in his second year and the Vols look like they’re reeling a little bit. They’ve lost their Heisman Trophy contender at quarterback, there are all kinds of rumors out there about possible ‘locker room issues.’ There are injuries in an already much maligned secondary.

The Vols obviously showed some chinks in their armor last week in Columbia and it’s not hard to see why some outside observers think they’re limping to the finish line and a prime suspect to get upset in Nashville.

I get it that Tennessee has some question marks, but I’m not in the ‘sky is falling crowd.’

I think Joe Milton is going to have a big day. I think his offensive coaching staff is going to put him in position to make plays and I think his teammates are going to rally around him.

I don’t think that Vanderbilt can score enough to keep up, even if the defense has another bad day. (Full disclosure, I thought the same thing about South Carolina).

Put me down for a big Tennessee win.


Eric’s Pick

This may be typical of covering a team – or maybe it’s completely the opposite. Call it whatever you want, but I have felt more and more confident as the week has gone on that Tennessee will rebound in a big way. I think Vanderbilt will challenge the Vols early, but Tennessee is by far the better football team and that should prevail over the course of 60 minutes.

Now, we all saw last week. That was rough. Frankly, that was a different ball club that we’ve seen all season long. Even on offense, the Vols didn’t look in sync at times despite putting up some points. I’m not buying into the whole ‘team divided’ narrative that’s out there. We’ve heard it from too many on the ground floor that states the opposite. But the alternative was, you got your tail whipped by an inferior team – and that’s still worrisome.

Joe Milton gets the nod, and although it may look slightly different, I expect Tennessee to put up some points. Vanderbilt’s defense is not good despite doing some good things against Florida a week ago. I’ll again take my chances with the explosive offense we’ve seen nine games this season. The Commodore pass defense is horrendous and Tennessee can exploit that with whoever lines up at wide receiver like tomorrow.

But how will Tennessee respond on the defensive side of the football? We hear this all the time, but it’s really about pride this week for that group. Can you bring some pressure and affect the quarterback, can you not give 10 yards a cushion when playing zone and can you set the edge on the perimeter run game? I think the Vols can do better in all three areas compared to last week. Not saying much, but I think you’ll see a motivated defense tomorrow for Tennessee.

I don’t think it will look as clean as we’ve been accustomed to, but I do think Tennessee responds in the right way – playing some PO football en route to a double-digit victory.

Tennessee 35, Vanderbilt 21

Grant’s Pick

It feels like all bets are off after what happened a week ago. We haven’t seen that team show up all season. There was no hint that there would be such a horrible letdown. But here we are.

Still, I don’t think the Tennessee team that showed up at South Carolina last week is really who this team is. The Vols have had too many big answers in too many big moments since September 1.

Josh Heupel told his players on Monday that they still have a lot to play for and that’s the truth. Being two games away from a possible College Football Playoff berth … and then slipping to the Citrus Bowl would be the worst-case scenario for Tennessee fans. But winning 10 games in the regular season (for the first time since 2003) and likely reaching a New Years Six bowl game would be a more comforting consolation prize, even after what happened last week.

South Carolina embarrassed a Tennessee team that, entering Williams-Brice Stadium last week, was one of the best stories in college football this season. And Hendon Hooker tearing his ACL early in the fourth quarter, likely ending his Heisman campaign, was just cruel.

Vanderbilt is a good story, playing for bowl eligibility after upsetting Kentucky and Florida over the last two weeks. But I think this Tennessee team rallies around Joe Miltonfinds answers despite the rash of injuries at South Carolina last week and, more than anything, plays for his own pride after getting humiliated in primetime a week ago.

Tennessee 38, Vanderbilt 17

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