You won't hear James Franklin call it a rivalry.
The commonly provocative dialogue between fans of the Volunteer State's two SEC institutions may suggest otherwise as Tennessee and Vanderbilt supporters alike have taken to widespread platforms like Twitter and message boards to express their animosity towards one another.
The Commodores' third-year head man, though, still isn't biting.
"People call it a rivalry," Franklin said. "I don't think it's at that point yet.
"It hasn't been as competitive as it needs to be considered a rivalry."
History shows that's a valid case; despite the Commodores' riveting, 41-18 victory over the Volunteers last season, the win marked just Vanderbilt's fourth in the series since 1975.
But make no mistake about it; Franklin attributes Vanderbilt's past failures for why he's refrains from using the "r word," not the program's current state.
"We've come to a good place, and we're very proud of representing Nashville," Franklin said. "I think there's enough room in this state for both (Tennessee and Vanderbilt). I truly do."
A once seemingly ridiculous argument, the Commodores' push for dual ownership is stronger than ever as last week's 22-6 win over Kentucky locked up a third straight postseason appearance.
In addition, the victory improved Vanderbilt's November record to 8-2 during Franklin's tenure; the late-season success is breathing confidence into the entire squad, according to quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels.
"I just think at the end of our seasons, what we've done is ... we're to a point where our confidence is at an all-time high," Carta-Samuels told reporters Monday. "I think confidence with wins is infectious."
Saturday will mark the Wyoming transfer's second straight start since coming back from an Oct. 19 knee injury he suffered versus Georgia. His numbers last week against the Wildcats were less than stellar – 184 yards and zero touchdowns – but Carta-Samuels instantly rekindled his connection with first team All-SEC receiver Jordan Matthews.
"His strengths are easy to number," Carta-Samuels said of Vanderbilt's top wideout, who reeled in 141 of those 184 passing yards. "I just don't see any weaknesses, that's the whole thing. His game is so complete. He's got an unbelievable football IQ, and he does a great job off the line of scrimmage.
"There's just really not a knock on him."
One of only two Commodore senior receivers on the roster, Matthews' legacy as one of the conference's most productive playmakers only strengthens as the weeks go by.
The current owner of both the SEC record for career reception yardage (3,358) and the Vanderbilt record for touchdown receptions (22), Matthews will look to add another prestigious designation to his already-lengthy title this Saturday.
Needing only four catches against the Vols, the Madison, Ala., native could become the conference's all-time receptions leader, surpassing former Commodore Earl Bennett.
"The biggest thing with him is his determination," Franklin said of Matthews, who wasn't ranked higher than a three-star recruit by recruiting services. "All the way back from high school, he's a guy that exemplifies our program as much as anyone with a chip on the shoulder and trying to prove people wrong."
Though Matthews has been an offensive mainstay, the Commodore attack doesn't solely rely on the talents of savvy veterans; redshirt sophomore running back Jerron Seymour has adjusted nicely in his first season as Vanderbilt's primary ball carrier.
The Hialeah, Fla., native currently leads the team in rushing yards with 618.
"He's extremely quick and lateral," UT defensive backs coach Willie Martinez said. "You always have the difficulty of tackling kids that are really good in space."
At just 5-foot-7, 200 pounds, Seymour's skill set revolves around his unique size, which – according to UT defensive coordinator John Jancek – makes it difficult to consistently locate the smaller back.
"Jerron has the ability to kind of get lost in the blocking scheme," Jancek said. "Then all of a sudden he comes squirting out of there. He is real low to the ground, and he is a little bit shorter, but has a real good positive lower body."