Mike Strange: No speculation about Vandy's desire to beat Tennessee

Mike Strange
Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers (11) throws to a receiver in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Tennessee on Saturday, Nov.19, 2011, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers (11) throws to a receiver in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Tennessee on Saturday, Nov.19, 2011, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

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Derek Dooley reviews the Vols' 51-48 loss to Missouri

Dooley talks defensive strategy

Derek Dooley addresses questions about his job

As Monday night turns into Tuesday morning, there probably isn't going to be an announcement this week about Derek Dooley's status as Tennessee's football coach.

There is only speculation swirling at every turn. Vol fans seem to care about nothing besides who is going to replace Dooley.

But there is also this, and it's 100 percent confirmed:

The Vols play a football game Saturday night in Nashville against a rival that desperately wants to beat them, and the bigger the margin the better.

And Vanderbilt, for once, appears to be capable of doing it.

In this corner, the Commodores, fresh off the program's biggest rally — 17 points down — in 13 years to win 27-26 at Ole Miss. Vandy is 6-4, 4-3 in the SEC and bowl eligible.

And in this corner, Tennessee, fresh off blowing a 14-point lead at home to lose in four overtimes to Missouri and fall to 0-6 in SEC play for the second consecutive year.

Just to stir the pot this week, there is last year's 27-21 UT overtime win in Knoxville, after which a video of the Vols' postgame celebration made it onto the Internet.

The highlight is Dooley reminding his team that the "one thing Tennessee always does is kick the (deleted) out of Vanderbilt.''

Since that night, Tennessee hasn't kicked anything out of anybody who matters. Vandy is a four-point favorite Saturday and it's unlikely the stadium will be heavily tinted orange as in the past.

"They're coming into this game thinking they're gonna beat us,'' UT senior Prentiss Waggner said Monday. "And they've got all the right to. They've been playing great football.''

The assumption is Dooley is a goner, although athletic director Dave Hart is about as talkative as The Sphinx.

Despite the grim reaper lurking in the shadows, Dooley and his staff have to keep their team focused on being prepared to take Vandy's best shot. They can leave the distractions to the media and the fan base.

As unpleasant as coming up short against SEC powers Georgia, Florida and the rest has been, as

gut-wrenching as watching Missouri steal a win last Saturday was, wouldn't losing to Vanderbilt be, to quote the Bard, the most unkindest cut of all?

UT and Vandy share geography. They recruit some of the same in-state players, especially so in recent years as the playing field has leveled.

Tennessee fans look down their orange noses on the Commodores, which is only natural given the one-sided history of the series. Thus, watching Vandy celebrate Saturday night would be adding insult to the considerable injury UT has already suffered.

Then there's a convenient rebuilding comparison on which to reflect.

For whatever good work Dooley has accomplished in a hard situation, the bottom line reflects only frustration.

Contrast that to what feisty James Franklin has done to Vandy's bottom line in only two seasons.

The Commodores are 12-11 on his watch, 6-9 SEC. After going to two bowls in the 36 years before he got there, bowl-eligible Vandy is 2-for-2 under Franklin. Beating UT would mean the program's first five-win SEC season since 1935.

"He's done a nice job of bringing some really good energy to the program,'' Dooley said Monday. "They're playing with a lot of confidence.''

Considering what's going on in their world, you have to wonder about the Vols' energy and confidence this week.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange

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Comments » 14

pcorange writes:

Vanderbilt is a solid football team. I still think we are a better team, I just don't think we are as well coached. They lost Zac Stacy in the Ole Miss game, so that will work to our advantage if he is still out this week. Jordan Rodgers will give our secondary fits, though. Hoping for, but not expecting, a win. Go Big Orange.

voodoo101 writes:

If you've been around for a while, then you know that at the end of the year when Vandy and Kentucky roll around on the schedule, they generally have no bowl prospects and they are all out to avenge the season on Tennessee. You also would know that once in a while they make it happen, and usually neither one simply rolled over and played dead.

snafu14u#241639 writes:

I can't believe that we,UT, have gotten to this point where this game in Nashville against Vandy has all the marks of a statement game for Vandy and UT. Think of this statement, should UT lose then The Vols would have been beaten by Kentucky AND Vanderbilt in less than 12 months in FOOTBALL. And I'm not trying to disrespect either one......but WOW. The job that Coach Franklin @ Vandy has done in recruiting/coaching them up/game day management and changing the culture of that program is amazing.....and that's in the SEC not the ACC. I am just thunder struck by this whole last 51 weeks. I'm just going to take the phone off the hook and watch what could be a no win kinda game for The Vols. BonzaiVol

born2ride writes:

We will beat Vandy.

UT owns Vandy.

Even Dooley can't lose this game.

KFDLaw writes:

After what happened last year, Vandy will be up for this game. We need to pray that Bray has another banner day. Our defense and special teams may still give it away.

td writes:

Tennessee has to score as much as they can as fast as they can in all the remaining games, and only hope the defense can act as a speed bump. DO NOT hold back the offense to let the defense "rest." The defense only gets to rest with a "3 and punt" or (better) a turnover. A relentless offensive exhibition is the only way Tennessee can win any game (this year).

Supersayin1 writes:

Tell this to our Defesive players: I have no Confidence in them! They are soft,slow,lack toughness,lack the ruthless rage required to be Beastly in the SEC and are plain and simple not very smart on the field! Maybe this will motivate them to be the team that played in the first half against Mizzou! GO VOLS!!

jkreis#632254 writes:

I don't care what Vandy's record is or what their motivation is or how much their crybaby coach feels disrespected by us - I don't care if a coaching change for us is likely, or not, - I just want to beat Vandy! We need somebody to remind our players what this rivalry is all about. Where is coach Cafego when you need him? I can tell you where he'll be Saturday - He'll be ready to jump up out of the grave and beat some commodore a...! GO VOLS! Beat the hell out of Vandy!

arkyvol writes:

when vandy looms as a monumental challenge, you know the vols ain't what they used to be.

kwcoach writes:

in response to Supersayin1:

Tell this to our Defesive players: I have no Confidence in them! They are soft,slow,lack toughness,lack the ruthless rage required to be Beastly in the SEC and are plain and simple not very smart on the field! Maybe this will motivate them to be the team that played in the first half against Mizzou! GO VOLS!!

You forgot to mention that they appear to have no basic defensive fundamentals. Good coaching!

JDX47 writes:

Remember, Dooley focused on Defense last week, so maybe this week it will take hold and they will soar like eagles. I am not sure what he is focusing on this week though...maybe time-out calling.

vq4nfo writes:

I'll make the drive. Good excuse to party in Nashville. It is going to be Cold!!

Hart is probably hoping for a loss. Low Tier bowl games actually cost UT and they do not need to spend any of that $1.XX Million they have in reserve.

oldbasshead writes:

in response to arkyvol:

when vandy looms as a monumental challenge, you know the vols ain't what they used to be.

Agreed. That is what struck me when I read this article. The odd thing is that UT probably has more future NFL players then it has had in a long time.

oldbasshead writes:

I hope UT will beat Vandy for the sack of the UT players. However, I don't have any real hope that they will win. How could you based on their performances so far this year. That's why Dooley has to go. We don't even have hope left.

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