The Vanderbilt Commodores will take on the short-handed Tennessee Volunteers in the final regular season game. Vanderbilt is 5-6 on the season and needs one more win to become bowl eligible.
Can the Commodores keep their momentum going? Let’s see what the NCAAF odds tell us!
Tennessee Volunteers vs. Vanderbilt Commodores
Saturday, November 26, 2022 – 07:30 PM EST at FirstBank Stadium
The Tennessee Volunteers will look to rebound after a 63-38 loss to the South Carolina Gamecocks last week. They’ll take on a Vanderbilt team that has won two straight games against Kentucky and Florida. Another win on Saturday would help Vanderbilt become a bowl-eligible team. Who would’ve thought that could happen?
Anyway, Tennessee no longer has Hendon Hooker under center. He tore his ACL last week. Therefore, Joe Milton will get the start for the Vols in their final regular season game.
Milton has always been a heavily regarded player. He’s got arm talent but was never consistent with it when starting for Michigan or Tennessee. He’ll be able to prove himself in two more games this season.
Here are our NCAAF picks and predictions for Saturday’s matchup between the Tennessee Volunteers vs. Vanderbilt Commodores.
Will Tennessee Falter be Without Hendon Hooker?
Tennessee is currently 9-2 and ranked 10th in the College Football Playoff Rankings. The Vols have been one of the best offenses in college football. But now they’ll be without Heisman candidate Hendon Hooker. Hooker threw 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions on the year. He also had over 3,100 yards passing before getting injured.
Joe Milton will take over. He’s much more inconsistent. The Vols struggled to win with him as a starter earlier in his career. He even transferred out of Michigan when Cade McNamara won the job over him in the middle of the COVID season.
The Vols have yet to block well in the passing game. The run block also hasn’t been crisp. Milton tends to overshoot balls and isn’t as good in the pocket as Hooker.
Meanwhile, they’ll take on a Vanderbilt defense that hasn’t been impressive this year. Although, I’ll say this. Vanderbilt has won two straight games and held Kentucky to 21 points on the road and Florida to 24 at home. The Commodores lost to Missouri a month ago but held the Tigers to 17 points. So that defense has played well recently.
It’s a guessing game for the Vols right now. It’s unclear how well they’ll play with a new quarterback. But I wouldn’t bet on Milton putting up Hooker’s numbers moving forward.
Can Vanderbilt Become Bowl Eligible?
The Commodores have scored 26.8 points per game this season. They’ve also averaged over 350 yards of offense per game, with 161.1 yards coming on the ground.
Although Mike Wright isn’t the leading quarterback in yards for the Commodores, he’s been excellent over the last two games with AJ Swann beat up with a lower-body injury. Wright only has 22 completions in his last two games. But he’s thrown for four touchdowns while only being sacked twice in those games.
Vanderbilt has protected better. They’ve also allowed Wright to become a game-changer with his feet. He’s rushed for nearly 200 yards through the last three games for Vanderbilt. He’s not the most accurate passer, but he’s only thrown four interceptions on the season, along with 12 touchdowns.
The offense has produced plenty this season. It always comes down to the defense. The defense going up against Tennessee will be very interesting. It’s hard to know how well Milton will play. He’s been inconsistent so that Vanderbilt can earn some stops.
Meanwhile, the Commodores haven’t been great in coverage. Spencer Rattler destroyed them last week. I’ve been waiting for a quarterback to tear apart that secondary, and it finally happened. Although, I’d say Bryce Young tore them up, too, with Alabama. He just didn’t earn the win because of a missed field goal.
Prediction and Pick
I don’t think Vanderbilt will win. But they’ve got a chance. Vanderbilt’s gained momentum, while Tennessee is in a let-down spot after losing to South Carolina but a considerable margin. Tennessee is likely down, while Vanderbilt is ready to run through a wall to earn a bowl game.
I’m not going to sit here and trust that Milton can run the same offense that Hooker did. There’s a reason why Hooker was a Heisman candidate. What he was doing was sensational.
He was sometimes inaccurate, but those inaccuracies didn’t lead to turnovers very often. He also read defenses and picked them apart quickly when they weren’t set. Hooker is going to be missed.
For that reason, I’ll take the 14 points with Vanderbilt for Saturday’s matchup. I’d love to see a team like Vanderbilt become bowl eligible. Tennessee probably already lost their chance at a New Year’s Six Bowl. Maybe not. Maybe so. This game will dictate a whole lot.
*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.