The Vols hope to take another step toward a bowl game on Saturday, when they face the Vanderbilt Commodores at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville.

Tennessee (4-6, 1-5 SEC) will look to avoid a trap game against a Vanderbilt (2-8, 1-6 SEC) team with nothing to lose.

"This is their bowl game, we know that,” UT coach Derek Dooley said. “We’re trying to get our second win in the SEC, so there shouldn’t be any reason to be thinking that we’re going to go in there and roll through it. They’re very tough and physical, and they play with great scheme discipline and good fundamentals and they run to the ball well.”

 Tennessee’s defense has improved over the last two games as it has forced 10 takeaways, good for 24th nationally with 21 turnovers this season.

The Big Orange defense will face off against the 115th-ranked Commodores’ offense, which produces just 280.3 yards per game.

“I see an athletic quarterback,” UT defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said. “I see a running back that hasn’t played a lot but came in and gave them a spark last week. They have a tight end that is their leading receiver. They are multiple on offense.”

Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray passed for 648 yards and eight touchdowns while giving up zero interceptions the past two weeks against Memphis and Ole Miss.

“I think (Bray’s) playing the way we expected him to play,” Dooley said. “He struggled in a lot of things the other day, but what he does do and what we’ve seen from the very beginning is he has an ability to make plays that change the game. When you’re able to do that, it kind of masks some of your other issues.”

The Commodores rank 95th nationally in pass defense, giving up 241 yards a game through the air, but Dooley does not expect it to be an easy task to advance the ball against Vanderbilt.

“I don’t think they’re going to give us opportunities to just chunk the ball around over their head like the other teams have,” Dooley said. “This is going to be a good challenge to see how we respond to a big SEC win the way we had. We need to keep building on the success we had, and I hope it will motivate us to work even harder, so that we hit the field with the same kind of confidence we had last week.”

Tennessee currently ranks last in the SEC in rushing yards per game, averaging just of 118.9 yards.

 UT running back Tauren Poole rushed 12 times against Ole Miss for 107 yards, going over the century mark for the sixth time this year. He is tied for the lead in the SEC with Auburn quarterback Cam Newton for most 100-yard rushing games.

“Tauren is playing good football,” UT offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said, “so we want to get him on the field as often as we can.”

Tennessee has suffered numerous injuries on an inexperienced offensive line throughout the season, but senior guard Jarrod Shaw has been able to fill the injury-plagued positions.

"I am thankful (Shaw) is here,” Chaney said. “He has moved around everywhere, and he has done everything we have asked him to do. If we have an MVP, I don’t know if we do or don’t, but he would certainly have my vote.”

Along with the inexperience of the offensive line, Tennessee has seen numerous freshman step on the field and make contributions. The Vols lead the nation in the number of freshman played this season, and Dooley has seen growth on the practice field.

“I think a lot of the younger guys, as time goes, they just start getting it better,” Dooley said. “There’s always that early part. I just think we got over the hump. You hit that kind of grind period, and they realized we weren’t changing anything, and so somebody’s got to surrender. The players, I think, finally said OK, we’ll practice better, since you’re not going to change.”