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Tennessee football vs. Vanderbilt: Time, TV schedule, game preview, score

Volunteers battle Commodores

Jarrett Guarantano #2 of the Tennessee Volunteers looks to pass during a game against the East Tennessee State University Buccaneers at Neyland Stadium on September 8, 2018 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Tennesee won the game 59-3. (Photo by Donald Page/Getty Images)
Jarrett Guarantano #2 of the Tennessee Volunteers looks to pass during a game against the East Tennessee State University Buccaneers at Neyland Stadium on September 8, 2018 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Tennesee won the game 59-3. (Photo by Donald Page/Getty Images)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – It's a big week in the state of Tennessee, but there's so much more on the line than bragging rights for the winner of this clash between the Volunteers and Commodores. The rivals will meet Saturday afternoon, with both schools desperate for a victory that would give them the magic number of six for bowl eligibility.

TV: 4 p.m. ET, SEC Network. LINE: Vanderbilt -3.5.

 

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"I'm excited, excited for the opportunity," fifth-year Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason told reporters. "You got two teams that are vying for something on the other side of victory. It's win or go home. The reality is, right now, you've grinded through 11 weeks of the season, there's good and bad. Now you have an opportunity to seize the moment." Once the doormat of the SEC and an afterthought in their own state, the Commodores have seized the moment in this usually one-sided rivalry the last two seasons and they are now aiming for their first three-game winning streak -- they have only won two in a row one other time -- since 1926. That is especially significant in a state that bleeds orange far more than black and gold, usually resulting in Volunteers fans making up the majority at Vanderbilt Stadium. "Everybody thinks that we're the little brother or little sister ... but we've never felt that way," Mason said. "With that being said, I think it's going to be a good game based on the fact that these are two football teams that have something to play for. We are going to line up, tee it up and we are going to give Nashville -- our city -- an opportunity to see what we are made of."

ABOUT TENNESSEE (5-6, 2-5 SEC)

In his first season as head coach, Jeremy Pruitt led his Volunteers to upset victories over Auburn and Kentucky but avoiding the SEC East cellar could largely depend on the status of redshirt sophomore quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, who has impressed with his 63.5 percent accuracy and just two picks in 217 pass attempts, but he is questionable after leaving last week's 50-17 loss to Missouri with a concussion. Backup Kelly Chryst was underwhelming in relief, hitting just 7 of 19 passes for 173 yards with two interceptions, and the team may need to lean on the ground game with freshman running back Ty Chandler (542 yards, 5.0 per carry), who has totaled at least 80 yards in each of the last two games, challenging a Commodores' run defense that has struggled at times but comes off a solid effort against Ole Miss (30 rushes, 121 yards). Still, the whole key may be the defense's ability to shut down Commodores quarterback Kyle Shurmur, who has given the Vols fits the last two seasons, completing 41 of 65 passes for 699 yards and six touchdowns.

ABOUT VANDERBILT (5-6, 2-5)

Shurmur has decimated the Volunteers' pass defense the last two years but they are hardly the only secondary he's torched as he set the school touchdown record last week with his 60th touchdown pass -- the game winner in a 36-29 OT win over Ole Miss -- and he has completed 61.4 percent of his 334 passes for 2,477 yards, 20 touchdowns and six interceptions this season. But the Commodores have proven to be more than just Shurmur, showing balance in their last three games with averages of 220.7 rushing yards and 210.7 passing yards, with Ke'Shawn Vaughn powering the ground attack although he may be slowed by an ailing ankle. The success of the running game may ultimately be the difference -- the Commodores are 0-5 when they fail to rush for 175 yards and 5-1 when they hit that mark, while the Volunteers are 0-5 when they allow 200 yards or more and 5-1 when they hold opponents to less.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Tennessee owns a 75-31-5 advantage in this series, although Vanderbilt has won four of the last six.

2. The Volunteers won 22 straight games over the Commodores from 1983 to 2004, including three straight shutouts from 2001-03.

3. Tennessee has earned trips to 52 bowl games in school history, including three straight from 2014-16.

PREDICTION: Vanderbilt 36, Tennessee 28

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