7. Vanderbilt Commodores
Saturday, Nov. 30; Neyland Stadium; Knoxville, Tenn.
Despite having to face Tennessee football in Knoxville this year and having no Kyle Shurmur, the Vanderbilt Commodores are still a more difficult opponent for the Vols than the Kentucky Wildcats. There are a few reasons for this.
Starting off, Vanderbilt has won five of seven against UT and three straight. By the way, all three have been by double-digit margins, and the last two have been blowout victories. Derek Mason has perfected the art of dominating Rocky Top. Even as the Vols dominated Kentucky last year, Vandy dominated UT.
Meanwhile, despite losing Shurmur, Vanderbilt, unlike Kentucky, returns a ton of talent elsewhere. In fact, they return so much that if they can offset the loss of Shurmur, they should even be better this year. This could actually be their breakout season under Mason.
That’s not a good situation for the Vols, who are still trying to rebuild under Pruitt. One factor that comes into this game is where the teams stand, as it’s both of their last games of the season. However, since we don’t know the answer to that, we’re putting this game here for now.
Vanderbilt being better than last year everywhere but quarterback and also having a three-year winning streak over UT is more than enough for us to put them ahead of Kentucky in ranking difficult games for the Vols this year. In fact, you could almost make a case for them to be ahead of our next opponent.