Alabama and Vanderbilt open their SEC schedules by meeting Saturday for the first time since 2017.

Last season, Alabama won the conference title, while Vanderbilt did not win a conference game. This year, both teams enter Saturday with 3 nonconference wins. (Vandy, which played in Week 0, is 3-1.)

Saturday’s game at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa is set for a 7:30 p.m. Eastern time kickoff, airing on the SEC Network.

Alabama vs. Vanderbilt: Preview

In addition to being 3-win teams, Alabama and Vanderbilt are also 2 of the 5 SEC squads currently averaging over 40 points per game. Beyond win total and offensive production, though, there aren’t many other similarities between the 2 teams.

The Commodores have already eclipsed the preseason over/under of 2.5 wins by defeating Hawaii, Elon and Northern Illinois. Clark Lea’s squad, though, enters SEC play with the least-talented roster in the conference, according to the 247Sports Team Talent Composite, which uses recruiting ratings to rank rosters.

Alabama is No. 1 in the SEC and the nation on the Team Talent Composite. Ironically, one of the 85 players that give the Crimson Tide the highest-rated roster is a transfer from Vanderbilt. Former Commodore OL Tyler Steen transferred to UA in April.

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Alabama’s close call in Austin (20-19 win over Texas) was sandwiched between lopsided wins over Utah State (55-0) and UL Monroe (63-7). In 3 games, there have been just 26 points scored on a defense led by potential Heisman Trophy candidate Will Anderson (4.5 TFL, 2 sacks, special teams block, TD).

Reigning Heisman winner Bryce Young is completing 68.2% of his passes to a receiving corps that looks much different this year. As surprising as it might sound, Vanderbilt enters the game with the most productive receiver between the 2 teams.

Vandy junior WR Will Sheppard has 23 catches for 313 yards (No. 6 in the SEC in receiving yards per game with 78.3) and 7 touchdowns. Alabama’s most productive receiver so far is Traeshon Holden, with 12 catches for 169 yards (No. 18 in the SEC in yards per game with 56.3) for 3 touchdowns.

The Tide, missing last year’s super-star receivers, still has plenty of talented, capable pass-catchers. Fourteen Alabama players have caught a pass in 2022. RB Jahmyr Gibbs leads in receptions with 14. Fellow RB Jase McClellan already has 2 receiving touchdowns.

McClellan (17 carries, 167 yards, TD) and Gibbs (22 carries, 151 yards) lead an Alabama rushing attack that is averaging 237.33 yards per game, good for No. 3 in the SEC. Vanderbilt is right behind at No. 4 with 217.25 rushing yards per game, led by Ray Davis (70 carries, 385 yards, 3 TD).

The Dores appear to have found their quarterback in AJ Swann (29-of-46, 452 yards, 6 TD) who came off the bench in the Week 3 loss to Wake Forest and made his first start last week in the win at Northern Illinois.

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The Commodores have already faced 1 standout QB from the Power 5 this season, and they struggled mightily. Wake Forest QB Sam Hartman was 18-of-27 for 300 yards and 4 touchdowns in Nashville. That bodes well for Young and the Bama receivers who are looking to get the vertical passing attack going.

Alabama vs. Vanderbilt: Prediction

Vanderbilt enters the Alabama game with impressive offensive production, but it is about to face its toughest challenge yet.

Alabama’s defense excels at keeping opponents out of the end zone. The Crimson Tide offense has a Heisman winner at QB surrounded by an assortment of weapons. Vanderbilt’s defense is allowing 28.5 points per game to 4 opponents that pale in comparison to Alabama. Expect UA to put up plenty of points again Saturday while limiting the Commodores’ scoring.

After getting shutout the last 2 times against Alabama, Vanderbilt may finally have an offense that can at least score on the Tide. But late in the game, neutral observers will be most interested in the point spread.

Prediction: Alabama 51, Vanderbilt 10