By Jim Butler
It's hard to believe that it is already time for the big Vanderbilt and Tennessee encounter on the gridiron. Remember when it was just a small speck on the Volunteers' radar because this victory was assured and was in the bag?
Thank goodness that it isn't that way anymore. This is a must win for Smokey's bunch and Mr. Gale. A 50-50 regular season will certainly not please a lot of Vol fans, but they have to hope for that now.
I realize that Tennessee is favored and I know how hard it is to beat the Volunteers at home, especially it seems for Vandy. However, it is far from impossible for Coach James Franklin and his scrappy bunch. I fondly remember 2005 when Jay Cutler and Earl Bennett went to Knoxville and came away with the first Commodore win in umpteen years. Then, of course, there was last year when the 'Dores dominated. I surely don't expect that dominance this year, but I'll be rooting hard as my team number something takes on number 117.
Vanderbilt will have to play much better than they did against the Kentucky Wildcats to have a chance. Hopefully they were just overlooking the blue for the orange. Still they came away with a win and I couldn't be prouder. Jordan Matthews had another big game and if we get Jonathan Krause back that will be a plus. Matthews appears certain to wrest the number of receptions crown away from none other than the aforementioned Earl Bennett.
I've had some comments from Vol fans about Coach Jones and there appear to be some doubts now. Come on Volunteer folks, you can give him more than one season before becoming discouraged. Supposedly he has recruited well and that should be some solace.
I don't think much about ex-Vols, but there are a couple that I admire. Of course, there's always Jane Way's favorite, Peyton Manning. His character and talent make it hard not to like him and he seems to be better than ever in leading the Denver Broncos. The other former Volunteer that is doing good things is David Cutcliffe. He left the pressure cooker in Knoxville and is doing really good things at Duke. Their convincing win over Miami has to be one of the biggest wins ever for that academically gifted bunch.
Coach Mark Richt must feel like he's snakebitten. Did you see the fluke play that cost him the Auburn game? It is much like what has happened to Vanderbilt on so many occasions.
Well, here we go. I'm too excited to sit here and pound on this keyboard anymore. Have a great week and a really good Thanksgiving holiday. Of course, I want my team to beat yours but if they don't I'll still be thankful for the many more important things, good health and freedom being among them.
Go Jets! Go Panthers! Go USA!
(Jim Butler is a Chronicle correspondent and his column appears regularly.)