Vanderbilt Commodores vs. #21 Tennessee Volunteers: Week 13 Preview

By: Justin Hawkins

It’s Rivalry Week! The last week of the college football regular season is here and bringing all kinds of history, hate, and great competition with it. 

The Tennessee Volunteers had a rough go of it at home against the top ranked Georgia Bulldogs as they lost 38-10 and resulted in their second straight loss. Now, it’s rivalry week as the Tennessee Vols host long-time in state rival the Vanderbilt Commodores for the final game of the 2023 college football season.

Last Time Out


Tennessee versus Georgia in years past has promised excitement and great competition, but this past Saturday did not get the memo as the Vols lost 38-10 at home to the Bulldogs. Outside of the first play of the game for Tennessee, little to nothing went the way they would have liked. 

On the first play from scrimmage, running back Jaylen Wright ran 75 yards for a touchdown and had the 101,000 fans at Neyland Stadium rocking. But, as it turns out, the Vols only had one good offensive play at their disposal Saturday. It was all Georgia for the rest of the game as they went on to score 24 unanswered before Tennessee kicked a field goal as the 1st half expired, and then went on to score 14 more unanswered in the second half. 

The connection between Vols quarterback Joe Milton and his receivers continues to be a trend keeping the offense stale. Milton went 17-of-30 for 147 yards. Sophomore wide receiver Squirrel White was the Vols leading receiver at 45 yards on five catches. Whether it be off throws from Milton, wide receivers dropping passes, or the offensive line allowing heavy pressure, the Tennessee offense continues to get in its own way. 

On defense, the Vols allowed Georgia quarterback Carson Beck to 24-of-30 passing for 298 yards and three touchdowns. The battle of the Georgia offensive line and the Tennessee defensive line was a best on best battle that the Bullodgs won. Tennessee managed just one sack, but it came late in the fourth quarter by Aaron Beasley on Georgia’s backup quarterback Brock Vandagriff. 

Tennessee punted six times with three of those drives resulting in three and out situations. 


The struggling season behind head coach Clark Lea continued yet again Saturday as the Vanderbilt Commodores traveled to South Carolina to face the Gamecocks and left with a 47-6 loss. 

South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler had a field day against a bad Commodore defense as he went 28-of-36 for 351 yards with three touchdowns as well as one rushing touchdown. Rattler did throw one interception though, which came in the first half. 

Vanderbilt was out-gained by 253 yards, 234 to South Carolina’s 487. The Commodores could just not generate much offensively with Ken Seals at quarterback as he went 13-of-28 for 104 yards and one touchdown. The Commodores leading receiver was London Humphreys who had 3 catches for 33 yards. Vanderbilt’s best receiver, Will Sheppard, was held to just one catch for six yards. 

Vanderbilt on defense generated zero sacks on the day and limited the Gamecocks to three punts on the day on 13 possessions. 

The Matchup

Rivalry week for the Tennessee Volunteers and the Vanderbilt Commodores is pretty lopsided since the two sides first played each other in 1892. Tennessee leads the series against Vanderbilt 79-32. Tennessee has not lost to Vanderbilt since 2018, and has lost in Knoxville since 2017. 

This season, Vanderbilt has struggled to put a decent football team on the field against SEC opponents as they are 0-7 in the conference. Tennessee enters the final week of the season with two straight losses, but with solid wins under their belt such as Kentucky, Texas A&M, and South Carolina. 

Tennessee, in their losses, have been limited in the run game and forced to throw the ball, which has not worked out well. Vanderbilt has allowed opposing teams to 170.8 rushing yards per game. Despite recent struggles, the Vols still sit at 205.7 rushing yards gained per game. This is biggest factor in this game. 

The Commodores with Ken Seals as quarterback are averaging just 124.67 passing yards per game. With the Vols injured in the secondary since Kamal Hadden is out for the year and Tamarion McDonald and Wesley Walker missing last weeks game, the secondary is potentially open for Vanderbilt to find success. 

Vanderbilt wide receiver Will Sheppard is the premiere target in the offense and he can make solid plays if not covered accordingly. Sheppard has 45 receptions for 640 yards and 8 touchdowns on the year.

Game Information

Vanderbilt Commodores vs. #21 Tennessee Volunteers

Time: November 25 @ 2:30 PM CT

Location: Neyland Stadium (Knoxville, TN)

TV Broadcast: SEC Network

TV Broadcast Crew: Dave Neal, Derek Mason, Taylor Davis

Radio: Vol Network (104-5 The Zone)

Radio Broadcast Crew: Bob Kesling, Pat Ryan

Line: TENN -27.0

Over/Under: 57.5

Keys To The Game

Tennessee’s Rushing Attack 

The Tennessee Vols have had one of college football’s top rushing attacks in 2023 behind the trio of Jaylen Wright, Dylan Sampson, and Jabari Small. Entering the final regular season game, Tennessee sit 11th in the country with 205.7 rushing yards per game. Vanderbilt allows 170.8 rushing yards per game to the opposition. That is the number one key for the Vols to win Saturday.

Tennessee’s Senior Day

It’s senior day on Rocky Top, and the Vols have 13 seniors playing their last game in Knoxville Saturday. Some of those have meant a lot to this team and school, especially this season, such as Joe Milton, Tyler Baron, Aaron Beasley, Jabari Small, Ramel Keyton, Omari Thomas and Cooper Mays. A strong outing from these guys will be the icing on top to good careers in Tennessee and they venture into their next steps in life. 

Strong Finish on Rocky Top

Tennessee has lost four games this season and their last two. Another win, especially against an inferior opponent, can only further enhance a decent bowl game later this year. Vanderbilt has yet to win against an SEC opponent. That lack of success should continue this week in Knoxville.