The 2022 college football regular season comes to a close with a host of rivalry games set to take place throughout the holiday weekend.
The Tennessee Volunteers were one of the biggest stories in college football this season. The Vols got off to an 8-0 start and were ranked as the No. 1 team in the country before a Nov. 5 matchup with Georgia. Tennessee was back on the national stage and with a win over the Bulldogs, would all but assure itself a spot in the College Football Playoff.
The Volunteers would lose that SEC heavyweight battle, 27-13, but kept their College Football Playoff hopes alive with a win over Missouri the following week.
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Unfortunately, the dream then ended in an ugly 63-38 loss to South Carolina. To make matters worse, the Vols also lost quarterback and Heisman hopeful Hendon Hooker to a torn ACL.
Now, after all of that, the Volunteers will need to get themselves up for a season finale against interstate rival, Vanderbilt (5-6).
And while Tennessee has very little to play for, Vandy has a chance to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2018. For a program that was 0-9 two seasons ago and had five wins over the previous three campaigns combined, getting a postseason game is a big deal.
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But it isn’t just the situational spot that makes Vanderbilt a live underdog in this matchup. There are also some stylistic edges that make the Commodores worth a look.
While Tennessee’s offense plays at a lightning pace, Vanderbilt is one of the slowest-moving units in the country. The Commodores average 28.2 seconds per play, which puts them as the 102nd-fasted offense in college football. Additionally, both of these teams run the ball at an above-average clip, and that may only tick up with Hooker on the sidelines for the Vols.
The clock should be moving in this contest, which is always a good thing when you’re getting this many points.
And that rushing attack plays into Vanderbilt’s strength on defense. While the Commodores struggle defending the pass, they are above-average on the ground and should be able to contend with Tennessee in the trenches for the most part. That will be a key battle with the Vols likely going more rush-heavy considering the quarterback injuries.
Offensively, the Commodores don’t do anything that’s going to leap off the page, but they’re a pretty decent side at finishing drives — they rank 52nd overall in that metric — so you know they’re relatively dependable at getting points when they get the ball over the opponent’s 40-yard line.
The Tennessee Volunteers showed themselves to be one of the best teams in college football this season, but all of that momentum is now out the window as the Vols are limping toward bowl season. A motivated Vanderbilt side looking to get to its first bowl game since 2018 is a tough matchup, especially when you’re laying this many points.
Back the Commodores at +14 to keep this thing close and perhaps pull the upset on Saturday.