FB PREVIEW: #10 Vols Cap Regular Season as Vandy battles for Volunteer State supremacy

NASHVILLE, Tennessee – No. 10 Tennessee will look to end its regular season on a high when it travels to the Midstate for a rivalry game against Vanderbilt at FirstBank Stadium in Nashville on Saturday night.

The Vols will be looking to rebound from a disappointing loss on the road in South Carolina last Saturday and a confident Commodores team clinching back-to-back SEC wins for the first time since 2018.


Saturday’s showdown will be televised on the SEC Network as Tom Hart (PxP), Jordan Rodgers (analyst) and Cole Cubelic (sideline analyst) will have the call. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET.

Fans can listen to Tennessee’s official radio show on the Vol Network (Local: WIVK-FM 107.7/WNML-FM 99.1) across 64 stations in the state of Tennessee and the Southeast, SiriusXM (ch. 81), and the SiriusXM app (ch. 81) , as well as the Varsity App. A live audio stream of the broadcast will also be available on UTSports.com and the Tennessee Athletics App.

Bob Kesling (PxP), Pat Ryan (Analyst) and Brent Hubbs (Analyst) will call the action, with VFL Jayson Swain taking on side assignments for the Vol Network radio show. The Big Orange Countdown pregame show begins at 5:30 p.m. ET.


For Tennessee fans traveling to Nashville, please visit the Vanderbilt Football Gameday Information Page for the most up-to-date information on Vanderbilt’s gameday policies.


What’s at stake?
The Vols have a chance to win their first 10-win season since 2007 and the program’s first 10-win season in the regular season since 2003. A Saturday night win would also put Big Orange in prime position to play in their first new Six Bowl Game of the Year since beating Texas A&M in the 2004 Cotton Bowl.

Vanderbilt, on the other hand, will be looking to secure bowl eligibility for the first time since 2018. The Commodores enter the contest 5-6 after upsetting back-to-back wins against Kentucky and Florida.

The nation’s top offense is on Rocky Top
Tennessee’s Attack Power ranks No. 1 in the nation for total attack (540.4), goal attack (46.5), and passing efficiency (184.81). The Vols are second in passing offense (348.8), third in first downs (294), and fifth in completion percentage (69.6). The Big Orange have a school record and national best 512 points, surpassing last year’s record of 511. UT leads the SEC in eight different offensive categories: Scoring Offense, Total Offense, Passing Offense, Completion Percentage, First Downs, Fewest Interceptions (3), Passing Efficiency, and Passing Yards per Completion (14.81).

It’s Joe time
Redshirt Senior Joe Milton III will take over as starting quarterback for the Volunteers this weekend after Hendon hooker suffered an unfortunate season-ending knee injury in the loss to South Carolina last Saturday. Milton opened the 2021 season as UT’s starting quarterback before suffering an injury in the second game of the season. Saturday is his third start as a Vol and eighth of his collegiate career, having started five games at Michigan from 2018-20.

The Florida native is one of the nation’s most talented backups and has shown limited action this season, showing incredible arm skills and athleticism. In seven games this year, Milton has completed 23 of 33 pass attempts for 573 yards (24.9 yards per completion), six touchdowns and no interceptions. He has also rushed for 72 yards seven times.

Record clock for Hyatt
Jalin Hyatt is within reach of Tennessee’s single-season record for preserving yards entering Saturday’s rivalry game against the Commodores. The junior wideout ranks second in the annals of UT for a season with 1,181 yards and needs 118 more to break Robert Meachem’s 2006 program record of 1,298 yards.

Hyatt has had a breakout season in which he has already set program marks for touchdowns in a season (15) and touchdowns in a game (five vs. Alabama on Oct. 15). The South Carolina native is one of the favorites for the Biletnikoff Award, presented annually to the nation’s best pass catcher.

keep it 100
Rocky Top has become a popular target for wide receivers since being head coached Josh Heupel arrived. For the past two seasons, UT has ranked seventh nationally with 18 individual 100-yard reception performances. The Vols have had 10 singles games for 100+ yards this season, ranking fourth nationally and leading the SEC. Four different Tennessee pass catchers have crossed the 100 yard mark at least once this year (Hyatt – 5, Brother McCoy – 3, Cedric Tillmann – 1, squirrel knows – 1).


Tennessee leads, 78-32-5

The Vols will seek their fourth straight win over the Commodores after winning each of the last three meetings by at least 18 points. UT is 38-20-4 all-time against Vandy in Nashville, including a 42-17 win in the two teams’ last clash in the state capital of 2020.

The Tennessee-Vanderbilt series dates back to 1892 and the two teams have played every year since 1945. The Vols and Dores meet for the 63rd time in the final week of the season. UT is 53-8-1 in these competitions.


Vanderbilt is led by sophomore head coach Clark Lea, who removed the program one win from bowl eligibility after struggling for a 2-10 record last season. The Commodores are flying high after back-to-back SEC victories over Kentucky and Florida in the past two weeks. The win over the Wildcats sparked a 26-game conference losing streak, while last week’s win over the Gators was Vandy’s first home win in the series since 1988.

Quarterback Mike Wright leads the offense and was efficient in last week’s win over Florida, completing 10 of 16 passes for 108 yards and three touchdowns. The junior signal caller is also dangerous with his legs, amassing 467 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 63 carries this season, including two 100-yard attempts on the ground in victories over Hawaii and Kentucky.

The biggest threat to Dores is junior wideout Will Sheppard, who leads the team in receptions (54), receiving yards (728), and touchdown catches (nine). Vandy has five players with multiple goals this season. Senior running back Ray Davis is nearing the 1,000-yard rushing for the year after three straight performances with over 100 yards on the ground. The California native comes into play with 982 yards and five touchdowns.

Helping defensively, Vanderbilt is senior linebacker Anfernee Orji, who leads the SEC with 102 tackles and also ranks first on the team with 7.5 tackles for losses and three forced fumbles, plus a few sacks and an interception. Junior safety De’Rickey Wright leads the secondary with 50 tackles, six pass breakups and three picks.