Much on The Line in TENN
Tennessee will likely need to win its last two games to play in the SEC championship game for the first time in three seasons. Vanderbilt, meanwhile, will probably need a pair of victories to earn its first bowl invite in 25 years.
The 19th-ranked Volunteers look to keep their SEC Eastern Division title hopes alive while the Commodores continue their push for a bowl berth when the teams meet Saturday at Neyland Stadium.
Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Tennessee –11.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday's game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 71% of bets for this game have been placed on Tennessee –11.5 (View College Football bet percentages).
Tennessee (7-3, 4-2) won its third straight last Saturday, 34-13 over Arkansas to move up three spots in the Top 25. The Volunteers are a half-game back of division-leading Georgia, but Tennessee beat the eighth-ranked Bulldogs 35-14 on Oct. 6.
"Regardless of what happens in the Southeastern Conference, we are still in control of our destiny," Vols coach Phillip Fulmer said. "Our focus is now on Vanderbilt and improving as a football team."
Tennessee, which has not played in the SEC championship game since losing to Auburn 38-28 in 2004, can get back there with victories over Vanderbilt (5-5, 2-5) and No. 22 Kentucky - teams Fulmer holds a 25-1 record against.
However, the last time the Vols and Commodores met at Neyland Stadium on Nov. 19, 2005, Vanderbilt won 28-24 to snap a 22-game losing streak at Tennessee.
The Vols avenged that loss last Nov. 18 with a 39-10 win at Vanderbilt, as Fulmer improved to 13-1 in his career against the Commodores.
Tennessee's Erik Ainge was 21-of-26 for 266 yards and two touchdowns in that victory. Ainge, third in the SEC in passing yards (2,266) and touchdowns (17), completed 12 of 25 passes for 128 yards and two TDs last Saturday.
Arian Foster rushed for 83 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries against the Razorbacks to give him 586 yards and nine TDs in his last six games. In the loss to Vanderbilt in 2005, Foster had career highs of 223 rushing yards and 40 attempts and scored two touchdowns.
The Vols are second-worst in the conference in defense (400.1 yards per game) and third-worst in scoring defense (27 points per game), but held Arkansas to just 289 yards. They also limited Heisman Trophy hopeful Darren McFadden to 117 yards, one week after he tied the SEC single-game rushing record with 321 against South Carolina.
Tennessee has allowed just 20 points in its last two games at Neyland Stadium, and Saturday will be its final home game of the season. The Vols have won all six at home this year and have not finished a season undefeated at Neyland Stadium since going 7-0 in 1999.
The Commodores are coming off their second straight loss, 27-20 to then-No. 24 Kentucky last Saturday.
Vanderbilt needs one more victory to become bowl eligible and reach the six-win mark for the first time since the 1982 team had eight victories and played in the Hall of Fame Bowl - the last bowl appearance for the Commodores.
However, with 10 SEC schools already bowl eligible, Vanderbilt may need to win its final two games against Tennessee and Wake Forest to earn a bowl invitation.
"The stakes of this game is beyond anything I can say," Commodores defensive tackle Gabe Hall said. "We have got to win this game because six wins might not get it done. We need to get seven. Make no mistake, this is a must-win game."
Vanderbilt ranks second-to-last in the SEC in offense (330 ypg) and scoring (21.9 ppg), but had one of its best games against the Wildcats, gaining 432 yards.
Mackenzi Adams was 20-of-31 for a career-high 193 yards and two touchdowns against Kentucky after throwing for 267 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions in his last two games combined.
"We're still in it," defensive end Curtis Gatewood said. "From our perspective, we feel like we can beat Tennessee and Wake Forest. I've got two games left in my career and I really want to make history."
by: Staff Writers - Email Us
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