Tennessee vs. Vanderbilt: Prediction and preview
Tennessee looks to bounce back from an embarrassing loss to South Carolina while the Commodores hunt for bowl eligibility in a Week 13 rivalry battle. Saturday’s SEC East battle in Nashville kicks off at 7:30 p.m. ET and can be seen on the SEC Network.
Tennessee vs. Vanderbilt preview
Two things happened in Week 12 that very few people would have guessed entering the slate. Tennessee lost and Vanderbilt won.
The Commodores are on the quietest win streak imaginable right now. Clark Lea’s squad has won back to back games against Kentucky and Florida, its first 2-game SEC win streak since 2018. Vanderbilt’s win over Kentucky was its first SEC win since 2019 against Missouri. And somehow, Vanderbilt’s win over Florida was not the most shocking event of the week in the Volunteer State.
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Tennessee’s loss against South Carolina will be talked about in hushed tones for years to come. The Vols were a layup away from reaching the College Football Playoff and managed to airball. In typical Tennessee fashion, of course.
And it gets worse. The Vols will be without star quarterback Hendon Hooker against the Commodores this Saturday after he tore his ACL in the waning minutes of Week 12’s loss. It’s hard for the Vols’ Week 12 to have gone any worse. Now, Tennessee will turn to Joe Milton III to lead the way under center. And as far as backups go, he’s about the best-case scenario.
Milton, in just a few appearances for Tennessee this season, has totaled 573 passing yards and 6 touchdowns with 0 interceptions. He’s plenty capable of connecting with one of Tennessee’s seemingly endless supply of talented receivers.
Vanderbilt is also likely to play a backup quarterback against the Vols. AJ Swann’s status is up in the air for Week 13, leaving likely Mike Wright as the starter until further notice. It is worth noting that Swann practiced this week, but Lea is hesitant to throw him back into things so quickly following injury.
Wright played well against the Wildcats and Gators, though. He combined for 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions across both games, just enough to steal both wins by a touchdown or less. He’s been getting some much-needed help from his group of talented receivers.
Will Sheppard immediately comes to mind. The 3rd year receiver has 54 catches for 728 yards and 9 touchdowns this season, by far his best season in a Commodores uniform. That’s the most on the team by far.
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Neither Florida nor Kentucky have an offense that can match what Tennessee can do on that side of the ball, even with a backup running the show. Tennessee can spread the Commodores out and do a lot of damage by way of Jabari Small, Jaylen Wright and Dylan Sampson. Truth of the matter is, Vanderbilt is going to have to really lock in on defense and keep things from getting out of hand early to do any damage.
Tennessee vs. Vanderbilt prediction
Maybe stay away from Knoxville for a bit if Vanderbilt extends its win streak to 3 Saturday evening.
Kirk Herbstreit may have Vanderbilt pulling off the upset over No. 10 Tennessee, but the Vols are plenty capable of ending the Commodores’ inspired win streak. Even in a rivalry game at home for the Commodores with little to lose.
Prediction: Tennessee 38, Vanderbilt 13