With the Titans defense playing at an all-time low and the Vols taking it down to the wire against Troy, Vanderbilt, yes the Commodores, are playing the best football right now in the state of Tennessee.
Vanderbilt (5-4) is coming off of a blow out win against Kentucky (1-9), rolling, 40-0, over the Cats. The win inches the Dores one win away from becoming bowl eligible for a second straight year and in the process sealed the fate of Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips, who will be let go at the end of the season.
"It's huge to start out with points, regardless if it's a field goal or a touchdown," Vandy QB Jordan Rodgers said. "It is important to have a long drive and end it with a touchdown. It demoralizes the defense and gives us momentum. It is something we've been doing a lot better, especially at the beginning of the game."
As for the Vols and the Titans, it seems each week teams are demoralizing their defense.
The Titans (3-6) were destroyed by the Chicago Bears (7-1) on Sunday, 51-20, giving up twenty-eight points in the first quarter. Yielding an average of 34.2 points per game, last in the NFL, Tennessee hasn’t found a way to stop opponents from finding the end zone.
“I don’t think there is any way to explain it, other than we did our best to give away that game in the first quarter. I think that is pretty much what we did by the way we handled the football,” head coach Mike Munchak said. “We put ourselves in a huge hole that obviously we couldn’t get out of.”
While the Titans couldn’t get out of their hole, the Volunteers (4-5) found a way to escape Troy (4-5), getting the win, 55-48. Running back Marlin Lane ran in a nine-yard touchdown with 1:25 left on the clock as the Vols sealed the victory. Like the Titans, the Vols are near the bottom of the barrel when it comes to letting opponents score, giving up 35.4 points per contest, 110th in the country.
Head coach Derek Dooley, whose team let Troy gain 721 total yards of offense, took full responsibility for the mistakes made as his seat gets warmer heading into the last three games of the season.
"Nothing's going very well on defense. And it all begins with coaching. I think the biggest thing, no matter what, the ultimate objective is to win the game. At some point, you've got to get stops,” Dooley said. “We had a lot of problems, obviously, but you've got to go play the next play. That's all you can do.”
Don’t be surprised if changes are on the horizon for the Vols and Titans. Defensively, these two teams can’t win consitently giving up 30+ points each and every game. I believe Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray will be searching for employment very soon and the same goes for Dooley.
It may sound crazy, but right now, Vanderbilt is playing the best football in the state of Tennessee.
Follow Zach on Twitter @Bada_Bingham