Two more reasons for Tennessee fans to be concerned about Saturday's game with Vanderbilt: a robbery and the Pistol. The items are unrelated, except for the concerns they raise.
First, the robbery, which occurred on the Vanderbilt campus Tuesday and led to the arrest of Commodores reserve safety Andre Simmons. He was charged with felony counts of burglary and robbery.
If you are wondering why that should bother UT fans, you obviously don't know much about college football. Good football and good behavior often don't go together.
Some of college football's greatest dynasties had a criminal undercurrent. And it's hardly uncommon for a program's winning percentage and crime rate to rise in sync.
UT fans know all about that. When the Vols won big in the 1990s, they were a handful for the local police as well as their opponents.
Football success and crime are foreign subjects at Vanderbilt. The Commodores are as unlikely to have a football player arrested as they are to be favored over UT.
Yet in the space of a couple of days, they have accomplished both. Those are shocking developments for a program that has lost 27 of its last 28 games to UT.
That's not the only startling news. Did you ever
think you would read "Pistol" and "Vols" in the same headline without someone being arrested.
The Vols have been toying with the Pistol formation this week in an attempt to accommodate quarterback Tyler Bray, who is expected to make his first start since suffering a broken thumb six weeks ago. Since the thumb is still tender, taking snaps under center could be a problem. In the Pistol, Bray can take a deep snap and still have a running back behind him.
While that's a pragmatic approach, it's also a reminder of UT's ongoing scramble to regain football prominence.
Two weeks ago, the Vols found an emergency kicker in a frat house. Four weeks ago, they rushed a true-freshman quarterback into the final minutes of a one-sided loss to Alabama. Before that, they changed centers — after the original center had been changed from a lefty to a right-handed snapper with disastrous results. And who else rotates punters?
If you wrapped all of that into a black-and-gold package, Vanderbilt's 12 fans would claim it as their own without hesitation. But it's UT, not Vanderbilt.
The Commodores will become bowl eligible with a victory Saturday. The Vols would have to beat Vanderbilt and Kentucky in the regular-season finale to be deemed worthy of back-to-back Music City bowls.
How's that for defying the natural order?
Hard times are no longer a stranger to UT football. The Vols have been struggling to regain their football footing since their epic tumble of 2008. Yet their fans aren't so conditioned to such misfortune that they can avoid a double-take at being even a one-point underdog against Vanderbilt. And it could get worse.
If a couple of Commodores knock off a liquor store this evening, Vanderbilt could be a three-point favorite by kickoff.