Saturday night Tennessee's playoff run continues as the Vols play in Nashville as a nearly double digit favorite against the struggling Vanderbilt Commodores. For the Vols, it's an opportunity to continue to show growth on both sides of the ball and a chance to keep their bowl hopes alive. What's key for Derek Dooley's team? Here's four in what we call The Cheat Sheet.
1. Be Ready - The assumption is that Tennessee is on a collision course for a battle with Kentucky for a bowl bid. But this is the Commodores bowl game and frankly a win over Tennessee would secure Robbie Caldwell's return next year as head coach. A week ago, Tennessee was locked in and ready to play. This week it's a different challenge as everyone just assumes that the Vols will roll in the state capital. The Vols have been a good starting team and they need to jump out early on Saturday and not allow the Commodores to gain confidence. This team simply can't assume anything.
2. Bray's patience - In the last two games, the defense has tried to blitz Tyler Bray and the true freshman has made teams pay. Bray's quick release and pocket presence has allowed him to carve up defenses for their aggressiveness. In the last ten quarters of play, Bray has amassed 807 yards and 10 touchdowns with 16 of his 46 completions going for 20 yards or more. Saturday night it won't be that easy or inviting. Vanderbilt will play more zone in the secondary. The will try and prevent the big play. Vanderbilt will try to force the young signal caller to be patient and drive the length of the field. Since Bray's been in the line up at South Carolina, the Vols have had 14 scoring drives. Only two of them have been longer than 3 minutes in time of possession.
3. Turnovers - Two weeks ago, the Vols were on the wrong end of the turnover margin, but the last two weeks, Tennessee has forced 10 turnovers and scored 55 points off those turnovers while only turning it over once. After heading to South Carolina last in turnover margin in the SEC, the Vols are now tied for 4th at +5 for the season. This defense isn't going to stonewall people. Teams are going to drive it on them, but what has made them effective the last two weeks is forcing mistakes by the offense. That has to continue this week.
4. Nothing cheap - The Commodores have scored a total of 55 points in their current 5 game losing streak. Vanderbilt is only averaging 18 points a game this season. They are last in total offense. They are 11th in rushing offense and 11th in passing offense. With the loss of running back Warren Norman, the Vanderbilt offense has had a difficult time scoring points and driving the length of the field. Tennessee only gave up two passing plays a week ago of over 20 yards. Tennessee must make the 'Dores earn everything Saturday night.