A 4-6 record with Vanderbilt and Kentucky left on the schedule has become a sight Vol fans have been getting used to seeing.

For the fourth consecutive season, the Vols have perched themselves in this oddly familiar situation en route to a bowl game.

Last season, Tennessee lost a heartbreaker in four overtimes to Missouri to set up the Vandy-Kentucky do-or-die scenario.

The Vols didn't get far. An embarrassing second half performance in Vanderbilt Stadium led to an eventual butchering from the Commodores followed shortly by the firing of head coach Derek Dooley.

The ending to the 2011 season is also well-documented as Kentucky snapped a 26-year losing streak to the Vols, and in turn, shattered UT's almost-guaranteed bowl game dreams.

The 2010 season, however, went in the Vols favor.

In the first year under Dooley's reign of terror, Tennessee started off 2-6 but managed to rattle off two victories against Memphis and Ole Miss with freshman quarterback Tyler Bray at the helm.

The Kingsburg, Calif., native then led the Vols to the two necessary wins against the school's in-state and bluegrass rival, respectively, and gifted the program a Music City Bowl berth for Christmas.

A gift freshman quarterback Josh Dobbs hopes to give as well.

The road to that gift also seems to be easier for the Vols than previous years.

Kentucky is basically a guaranteed win (knock on wood). The Wildcats have one win over FBS competition in the last two years.

With that said, the largest task becomes getting past Vanderbilt, whom the Vols have a bye week to prepare for.

If Austyn Carta-Samuels was suiting up for the Commodores in two weeks, UT's cause for concern would rise due to Carta-Saumels' running ability and the Vols' ineptitude towards stopping dual-threat quarterbacks.

UT has still only played one true pocket passer from a BCS conference: AJ McCarron, who torched UT to the tune of 275 yards and two touchdowns, and it would've been a lot worse had the game not been sealed by the second quarter.

With freshman Patton Robinette in, however, the Commodores' most dangerous weapon, wide receiver Jordan Matthews, has faded into non-existence, making the Vols task of getting the job done at home even easier.

Then again, if these games were played the same way they are evaluated – on paper – then UT would be striving for the fourth consecutive bowl game appearance, not trying to snap a two-year drought.

The old saying goes "history repeats itself," and the Volunteer faithful can only hope this year's "history" will be reminiscent of 2010 and not the past two seasons.

Upset of the Week

Last week: Pittsburgh over Notre Dame

This week: Ball State over No. 15 Northern Illinois, 42-41

Let's be honest, "MACtion" may be the the greatest thing ever.

A matchup between the two best teams in the Mid-American West for an opportunity to play in the conference championship makes it even better.

Northern Illinois' senior quarterback Jordan Lynch is the Johnny Manziel of the Mid-American Conference – take that for what you will – and he is an absolute statistical freak.

With that said, Ball State's Keith Wenning – currently fourth in the nation in passing yards – may be having the best season as a quarterback for the Cardinals since 2008 when Nate Davis was under center.

Expect a shootout on Wednesday, and believe in Wenning and his Cardinals squad.

Troy Provost-Heron is a sophomore in journalism & electronic media. He can be reached at tprovost@utk.edu and followed on Twitter @TPro_UTDB.