KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Your Tennessee Vols have turned it around and are looking to close out a terrific late season run with a victory over in-state rival Vanderbilt. The win would be Tennessee's 5th straight after taking care of business at Missouri.
The stats absolutely back up this Vols turnaround, especially on defense where UT is in the top 50 in the nation in scoring defense and sacks and tied for 7th nationally in interceptions.
There's no reason to believe coach Pruitt's crew won't continue that trend against a heavy underdog in 3-8 Vandy. The Commodores also have only one win in SEC play, but they come in riding a three game win streak against their neighbors to the East.
Here are my keys to a Tennessee win over Vanderbilt:
1. SENIOR DAY: I got to believe there is no way Jauan Jennings and the other Vol seniors will allow anything less than a complete dismantling of the Commodores, who are giving up 438 yards and 32 points a game. Look for UT to ride that senior wave on Saturday.
2. REVENGE: Coaches always say revenge doesn't factor into a teams preparation for a game, but trust me, this group is well aware of what's transpired in recent years having lost three straight to the black and gold. So yes, the Vols will be well motivated to take care of business against Derek Mason's team.
3. GET IN THE ZONE: UT's red zone offense continues to struggle. The Vols have been able to drive the football on teams, but have stalled inside their opponents 20 yard line converting only 77 percent of the time.
4. VOLS GROUND GAME: Running the football and keeping the Vanderbilt defense off Jarrett Guarantano will be key to Tennessee's success against the Commodores, who are giving up 200 yards on the ground per game this season. Currently ranked 12th in rushing offense in the SC, this is an area the Vols need continued improved play as they showed in the second half at Missouri.
5. VANDY GROUND GAME: How well the Commodores run the football has played a factor in the outcome of their games. In Vanderbilt's three wins this season they rushed ball for around 150 yards. Ke'Shawn Vaughn is their talented lead back and will be a target of the Vols defensive front for sure.
Tennessee has played Vanderbilt longer than any other opponent with the first meeting way back in 1892. It's 2019 these guys are concerned with. A victory seals a winning regular season for this bowl bound group at 7-5, something that didn't seem possible after a 1-4 start. Kickoff inside Neyland Stadium is 4 o'clock. Fans be sure to be in your seats by 3:45pm for senior day activities.