Commentary by Joe Biddle: Similar goals ahead for Vandy, Tennessee
By Joe Biddle, Columnist
In a span of seven short days, Vanderbilt and Tennessee’s football teams got the full SEC experience.
On Oct. 19, Vanderbilt and Tennessee pulled off upset wins over then-nationally ranked teams, Georgia and South Carolina, respectively.
In the past that has happened about as often as Halley’s Comet passing our way.
Their futures have never looked brighter under Vanderbilt Coach James Franklin and first-year Tennessee Coach Butch Jones.
Last Saturday, top-ranked and defending national champion Alabama lowered the boom on the Vols in Tuscaloosa. And on their first visit ever to College Station, Vanderbilt got all it wanted from Johnny Football & Co.
Get this. The two state-based SEC teams lost both games by a combined score of 101-34. The Vols lost 45-10 to Bama, who covered a generous 28-point spread.
At the same time, the Aggies popped Vanderbilt in the jaw, 56-24. Their offense was limited to 24 points by an A&M defense that some call a Swiss cheese lineup.
There is no break for Tennessee. They travel to Missouri Saturday to play a team that just lost its first game of the season, in double overtime to South Carolina. When what was basically a little more than an extra point field goal attempt hooked into the left upright and was last seen making a 90-degree turn that left the Tigers in tears.
Vanderbilt has a week to lick its wounds, get back to work and prepare for its next game in the Swamp against a Florida team that has struggled to find points.
Both Vanderbilt and Tennessee need two more wins to become bowl eligible. Looking at the remaining games, Vanderbilt has by far the easier path on paper.
In addition to Florida, the Commodores host Kentucky, go to Tennessee and come back home to play Wake Forest, an unranked team that gave Miami (Fla) all it wanted last week.
While Vanderbilt doesn’t play a top-25 team, Tennessee must face two ranked teams in its remaining schedule.
After this week’s game at No. 9 Missouri, the Vols host No. 11 ranked Auburn. They then have a bye week and finish with Vanderbilt at home and Kentucky in Lexington.
When it comes to becoming bowl eligible, the Tennessee-Vanderbilt game could be huge for one, or both, of those teams in the next to last games.
Getting to a third straight bowl game would be monumental for Vanderbilt, especially in recruiting. It would also make Franklin a hot commodity for other schools searching for someone to coach their team for more money and in most cases, with all the financial and facility perks Vanderbilt would be reluctant to match.
Jones is not going anywhere. The realistic Vols fan didn’t expect Jones to take this team to a bowl game before the season. If he does, it just emphasizes how good a job Jones will have done in his first year with limited talent at crucial positions.
Both Jones and Franklin are rabid recruiters. They realize they have to upgrade their rosters.
According to Rivals.com, Tennessee is currently ranked No. 2 in the country, behind Alabama. The Vols have oral commitments from one 5-star recruit, 15 4-star recruits and 10 3-star prospects.
Vanderbilt is ranked No. 21 currently, which puts them 10th among SEC teams. The Commodores have 20 oral commitments, led by five 4-star players and 10 3-star players.
That’s one of the main reasons these final four games are of high importance. The gloves are off.
Sport Columnist Joe Biddle is a four-time sports writer of the year in Tennessee and a 2013 inductee to the Tennessee Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted on: 10/30/2013