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Tennessee-Vanderbilt Rivalry Heats Up Across Volunteer State

Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

The rivalry between the Tennessee and Vanderbilt fan bases has continued to gain steam in recent years, with the upcoming season possibly being the all-time boiling point. If you’re unfamiliar with the history between the two teams, the majority of meetings have been dominated by the Volunteers, who have won seven or more games per decade since the 1930s.

Tennessee owns a 73-29-5 all-time record against the Commodores. Also, the Volunteers have won all but two games since 1982 in their annual meetings with their state rivals.

However, the hiring of James Franklin immediately changed the identity of the Commodores. Franklin led Vanderbilt to consecutive bowl game appearances during his first two seasons in Nashville, a feat that hadn’t been accomplished since 1923.

But his team’s 41-18 victory against their SEC East and state rivals may have been the signature moment of his career. The game ultimately cost former Tennessee coach Derek Dooley his job, and served as the definitive explanation to where the programs stood.

As Vandy continued to look like a team on the rise, the once-great Volunteers were suffering yet another disappointing season. As Vanderbilt finished with a 9-4 (5-3) record, Tennessee fell to 5-6 (1-7), a concept that would have seemed outrageous in years past.

But, Tennessee fans remain optimistic that the hire of new coach Butch Jones will prove to be the ultimate factor in their much-needed turnaround. With Vanderbilt fielding their most successful team in decades, fans from rival fan bases continue to argue which program truly owns the state.

The best example of the rivalry’s growth is shown through fans in the Nashville area. While Nashville is home to Vanderbilt, many citizens throughout the entire state have pledged their allegiances to the Volunteers, with the state capital being no exception.

To Tennessee fans, Vanderbilt was always the “little brother” rivalry, not to be taken as seriously as Florida or Alabama. Vandy fans had always taken on the “little brother” mentality in terms of football, but have become much more confident with their team’s recent success.

But until Vanderbilt can win more than one game every half a decade, successfully out-recruit their rivals and control the majority fan base in their own state, there should be absolutely no argument that the “Volunteer state” is the Volunteers’ state. However, the fact that Tennesseans are actually having this debate is a credit to Vanderbilt’s recent success.