Tennessee Football Running back Jaylen Wright. Photo By Kate Luffman/Tennessee Athletics.
Tennessee rounds out their regular season with a home matchup against the Vanderbilt Commodores on November 25.
Vanderbilt hasn’t scored a point against Tennessee since 2021, as the Commodores were blanked, 56-0, in Nashville last season.
The Vols have cruised to four straight victories over their in-state rival after losing three straight from 2016-2018.
Vanderbilt figures to be one of the top four easiest games on Tennessee’s schedule, along with Austin Peay, Virginia and UConn.
The ‘Dores showed improvement last season, upsetting Kentucky and Florida to put themselves one game away from bowl eligibility. But the Joe Milton-led Vols pummeled Vandy to prevent them from reaching a bowl games, simultaneously proving there is a large gap between the two teams.
Let’s take a look at 2023 Commodores.
What Happened in 2022
Vanderbilt’s season started off on the right foot with a 63-10 blowout victory on the road against Hawaii. In Week 3, the Commodores suffered their first loss to a solid Sam Hartman-led Wake Forest team, and then things got ugly once SEC play began.
Vandy went 0-5 to start SEC play, staying competitive against Missouri and South Carolina but getting blown out by Alabama, Georgia, and Ole Miss.
Then, the Commodores found a way to shock the world beat Kentucky on the road then Florida at home in back-to-back weeks, putting them at five wins heading into rivalry week.
But, Tennessee blasted Vanderbilt to end their season.
Head coach Clark Lea now enters his third season in hopes to get Vanderbilt bowl eligible for the first time since 2018.
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2023 Offense Outlook
The good news is Vanderbilt has their quarterback.
AJ Swann took over last season and looked good as a true freshman. Now, the Commodores have their bona fide leader of the offense entering his sophomore season.
The bad news is Vanderbilt lost explosive running back Ray Davis to Kentucky. Freshman Sedrick Alexander will replace Davis, but it remains to be seen if the Commodores will have the same success on the ground.
Another positive for Vandy’s offense is Swann has a nice ensemble of weapons to throw to. Will Sheppard, Jayden McGowan and Quincy Skinner Jr. are all good options that should help Swann take a sophomore leap.
As for up front, Vanderbilt won’t impose their will against anybody, but it shouldn’t be a liability. The unit returns 70 starts and should not be the reason Vanderbilt loses games in 2023.
2023 Defense Outlook
Vanderbilt’s defense will probably be one of the worst in the SEC.
There’s reason for optimism along the defensive line. Miles Capers returns after tearing his ACL last season during fall camp. Darren Agu returns for what should be a better sophomore season, and Stanford transfer Aeneas DiCosmo will make an impact.
But the linebacker corps is suspect, and the secondary will likely be bad.
CJ Taylor is a hybrid safety/outside linebacker that may be Vanderbilt’s best defender, but as a whole, Vanderbilt’s defense will struggle against SEC offenses.
Tennessee rolled Vanderbilt last year in Nashville by eight touchdowns.
Is Vandy that much improved from last year to make this year’s game more competitive?
I don’t think so. But I also don’t think Tennessee is that much better than Vanderbilt. If the Commodores play to their capability, they can put up some points. But Tennessee will put up more.
This game will only be competitive for maybe a quarter, if at all. The Vols’ offense scores at will while the defense keeps Vanderbilt at bay.
Tennessee 52, Vanderbilt 24