For fans, a bye week is a dark week with no game day on the horizon to look forward to.

For Tennessee head coach Butch Jones, however, a bye week is an opportunity to get better as a team.

And better is exactly what his team has seemed to be when they head into a game following an open week. Jones is 9-1 in such contests over his career, including a 23-21 victory over South Carolina on Oct. 19.

"To me, no two bye weeks are ever the same," Jones said. "I think for me personally, I always step back and say, 'Okay, what does this particular team need?' Our bye week at Cincinnati, or our bye week earlier in the year, may have been different than this bye week just based on what this football team needs.

"It's a chance to go back and redefine the small details, hold everyone accountable."

This post-bye week, however, may be the biggest in Jones' career, as the Vols find themselves needing to win out in order to secure a bowl berth, something the program hasn't been able to achieve the past two seasons.

"We've got an experienced group," said senior offensive lineman Ja'Wuan James about staying in the bowl hunt. "We've got to lead the young guys. We've been in this situation three times and this is our fourth time. We've got to get the best out of the situation.

"The experience has helped us and I feel like we're going to go out there and perform."

If the Vols want to keep their goal of making a bowl game alive, they will have to protect the football. UT has been haunted by six turnovers during its current three-game losing streak.

Against an aggressive Vanderbilt defense that thrives on forcing the offense to make mistakes, the task will be easier said than done.

"They are an experienced group and they do a good job of keeping their eyes on the quarterback and playing off of the quarterback's eyes," offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian said. "We have to do a good job of manipulating defenders and taking care of the football."

Defensively, the Vols defensive line will have to be on their game to deal with Jerron Seymour, whose 12 rushing touchdowns ranks third in the SEC.

Senior defensive lineman Marlon Walls also said his unit has to shoulder some of the responsibility of stopping the Vanderbilt passing attack.

"I challenged the defensive line," Walls said. "We've got to get some pressure; we have to help those guys out. Not just for the sacks, but to help them out. They are our brothers – they need us and we need them. It's our job to get pressure and help them out on the back end."

As for motivation, there's plenty of that to go around in the Tennessee locker room at 7 p.m. on Saturday.

"It's just a big game, of course a lot of tradition behind the rivalry," freshman quarterback Joshua Dobbs said. "So we're focused on what we have to do to execute in order to play the best football game we can."