Butch Jones irritated Vols fans earlier this week by proclaiming his team as the champions of life on Monday, “They’ve won the biggest championship,” said Jones. “That’s the championship of life”. But now they will have to defend that Life Championship on Saturday against Vanderbilt in Nashville.
The big question here is if Vandy upsets the Vols do they become the new, undisputed Champions of Life and even more importantly does that make UT losers at life should they come up short on West End this weekend.
Aside from the Life Championship both teams have a lot to play for. Vanderbilt is looking to get their sixth win of the year and become bowl eligible. The Commodores haven’t been to a bowl game since the 2014 Compass Bowl which was James Franklin’s last game before bolting to Penn State. After upsetting Ole Miss last week Derek Mason’s squad picked up their fifth win and will have to find a way to get past the Vols at home in order to qualify for a bowl. The Dores can still get possibly get to a bowl game with only five wins due to their high APR score and a lack of bowl eligible teams. But a win over the rival Volunteers is bigger than any bowl victory.
The Vols hope to their defense plays better this weekend after getting gouged last week by Mizzou running back Damarea Crockett for 225 yards. The Tigers lit up Tennessee for over 700 yards on offense so you can expect a steady diet of Ralph Webb for Vanderbilt on Saturday. Webb only needs 27 yards rushing to break Zac Stacy’s all-time rushing record on West End and he will likely get it in the first quarter.
The line on the game in Vegas is currently Tennessee -7.5 points. It opened at 10. If Vanderbilt can run the ball as effectively as Missouri did last week it could be a long night for Tennessee. The Commodores defense can be lights out when they are clicking but if Josh Dobbs can get loose UT could run up the score and cause problems for Derek Mason’s defense.