JOE BIDDLE: Magic number 3 for Vols, Vandy

JOE BIDDLE: Sunday Notes: July 7, 2013 (Image 1)

In many ways, Vanderbilt and Tennessee's football teams are mirror images of each other.

I know. I know. Vanderbilt is a small private school not known for its football teams. Tennessee is a large state school, known for its championship football teams, until the last four years of famine.

Both teams, however, are trying to rebuild their programs.

The Vols have a 3-2 record, but its biggest win is against N.C. State in the season opener. Vanderbilt is 1-3, its lone win over punching bag Presbyterian. Both teams are 0-2 in SEC games, both teams bowing to the Georgia Bulldogs between the hedges.

Here's where they share the future.

The next three games for Tennessee will make or break its season. After a bye week, the Vols will tackle No. 20 ranked Mississippi State in Starkville, No. 1 ranked and undefeated Alabama in Knoxville and undefeated No. 6 South Carolina in Columbia.

The next three games for Vanderbilt will make or break its season. The Commodores come off a bye week by traveling to Missouri to welcome the Tigers to the SEC. They return home to play No. 10 Florida and Auburn.

While Vanderbilt Coach James Franklin has energized the Commodores fan base, his job security is safe. He is tied to the hip of new/old Athletics Director David Williams, who hired him.

Franklin's wishes have been granted by Williams. There is a new indoor practice facility under construction. The stadium underwent a facelift before the season with a new scoreboard, a new Field Turf playing surface and other cosmetic upgrades.

Franklin often recruits from a helicopter. Recruits in the Atlanta area didn't remember much of what they heard from college coaches, but they remembered the dude in the helicopter. That would be Franklin.

Up on the Hill, the jury is still out on Vols Coach Derek Dooley, now in his third year of a major reclamation job. He walked in to a program that Lane Kiffin and Phillip Fulmer had laid waste to.

He has won four SEC games, two of them against Vanderbilt, one against Kentucky and another against Ole Miss. SEC bottom feeders.

While Franklin's seat is temperature controlled, Dooley's is hotter than a nuclear explosion. Let Dooley lose the next three games and his stock hits an all-time low.

Let Franklin lose the next three games and he will just increase the oft-repeated mantra of previous Vanderbilt football coaches: This is going to take some time.
Franklin must guard against his players and fans losing faith if the losses such as they suffered at Georgia keep mounting. He has since placed both quarterbacks off limits to all media. For what purpose, we can only guess. I doubt they are going to teach anyone in the media how to split the atom.

All Vanderbilt players should be allowed to participate in media interviews. They are a strength and credit to the school's football program.

Tennessee has a week off to correct the weaknesses that cropped up against Georgia. Yes, they made it a one-touchdown margin, after they started the fourth quarter tied, 30-30. No, they never had a clue as how to stop the Dawgs, giving up 51 points and making it look easy for Georgia running backs. They boat-raced the new 3-4 Vols defense, piling up 560 yards.

It will be interesting to see how both teams fare through the most difficult part of their schedules.

We'll have the answer in three weeks. Check back then.

Contact Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at

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