The Commodores are rolling with a 4-3 conference record while Tennessee sitting at a hot-seat smoldering 0-6 in the SEC. However, the Tennessee coaches and players continue to look ahead and try to avoid the lurking distraction of an almost inevitable coaching change on Rocky Top.
"I think they have been fine," said defensive line coach John Palermo of his player's attitudes. "I think they were good last week and I think they have been good this week in meetings. I have nothing but good things to say about them because at this particular point they are dealing with some issue that you don't want to have to deal with, but by the same token they can't worry about that. They have to worry about how they play on Saturday."
It's been nearly 16 years since Jay Graham last dawned the Orange & White and things are night and day in the Tennessee-Vandy rivalry, especially on defense.
"The biggest thing is they play hard," Graham told reporters Wednesday. "They play so hard. They get to the ball, they strain, and they get three and four guys to the ball. They don't give up big plays because they play so hard. That is the key. You have to play just as hard as they do or even harder in certain situations."
The Commodores are giving up 330 yards per game on defense compared to the Vols 481 and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney says James Franklin's defense is among some of the elite they have faced in 2012.
"I think they are similar to a lot of the defenses that we have played already," Chaney said. "They play hard, they have good scheme, well coached, they are never out of position, they are a smart team and they are opportunistic. It seems like they play on a lot of long fields. They are a solid team just like a lot of other teams we have been playing."
However unstable the coaching situation may be in Knoxville, one thing hasn't changed — the work ethic Derek Dooley's coaching staff.
"Nothing is going to change," said defensive coordinator Sal Suneri. "We work for the University of Tennessee. We are going to work every single day. I get here every morning at 5:30 and I haven't left till 11 o'clock at night. That is what we do."
Watch as Tennessee coaches met with the media following Wednesday's practice at Haslam Field: