HOOVER, Ala. — Amid an offseason of continual comparison between the slope lines of Tennessee football and Vanderbilt football, James Franklin didn't take the bait.
During Tuesday's opening afternoon of SEC Media Days, the Commodores' pragmatic second-year coach brushed aside any rumblings of friction.
"To be honest with you, I don't really consider it a rivalry," Franklin said. "It has to be a lot more competitive before it becomes a rivalry. It's been onesided."
One-sided as in six straight wins for the Vols and 33 in the team's last 35 meetings.
Perceived verbal jarring between Franklin and UT coach Derek Dooley have inflamed a perception of a feud since the programs last met on Nov. 19. On that night, a 90-yard interception return by Eric Gordon on the first series of overtime gave Tennessee a 27-21 win over the visiting 'Dores.
A video from the Vols' locker room celebration showed Dooley bellowing, "The one thing that Tennessee always does is kick the (bleep) out of Vandy."
Yet, Franklin isn't ready to deem the game a rivalry.
"We have tremendous respect for that program, for the state that we're in," said Franklin, who finished 6-7 in a first year that produced a trip to the Liberty Bowl (31-24 loss to Cincinnati).
Asked for the players' point of view, Vandy quarterback Jordan Rodgers said the two are rivals due solely to proximity. Like Franklin, he said until the Vols are saddled with a few losses, the programs can't be true rivals.
UT has won 14 straight road games against Vanderbilt.
"From their perspective, I wouldn't think they'd think it's a rivalry," Rodgers said. "How many times have we beat Tennessee? It's a big game — bragging rights in Tennessee — but it's no different than the competition in any other game."
The Vols and Commodores meet again on Nov. 17 in Nashville.
Lingering Sting Of Defeat: Rodgers hasn't forgotten the gut-wrenching overtime loss last season. The senior quarterback was responsible for four turnovers, including the game-winning interception by Gordon.
Asked what games he thought about in the offseason, Rodgers quickly responded, "Tennessee and the bowl game — those are the two."
Unchartered Waters: Missouri cornerback E.J. Gains has played in front of notoriously rowdy environments at Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Nebraska. Now he's preparing for the SEC atmosphere.
Asked which SEC stadiums he's excited to play in, the junior answered, "I can't lie, I'm looking forward to the Tennessee game and the Florida game."
Why Neyland Stadium?
"I've just heard that it's crazy."
Missouri's Nov. 10 visit to Rocky Top will not only be Gains' first trip to UT, but the program's first despite 235 combined years of football and a mere 600 miles separating the two.
Watch List: UT junior wideouts Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers each landed on the Biletnikoff Award preseason watch list. The award is voted on by a national selection committee consisting of more than 180 journalists, commentators and receivers.
Hunter returns from a torn ACL that trimmed his 2011 season down to three games. He finished his sophomore season with 17 receptions for 314 yards and two touchdowns.
Rogers, meanwhile, led the SEC with 1,040 yards receiving and finished second in the league with both 67 receptions and nine receiving touchdowns.