David vs. Goliath? Nope. Just Vanderbilt at Alabama.
This Saturday, the upstart Vanderbilt Commodores will walk into Bryant-Denny Stadium as roughly 40-point underdogs, hoping to shock the world.
Bama Moving Past Early Scare
For Alabama, the proverbial “rat poison” was strong this off-season.
Despite a loss in last season’s title game to Georgia, the Tide entered 2022 as the near-unanimous #1 ranked team.
All the hype in the world means nothing, of course, when the ball is snapped. Alabama learned this quickly two weeks ago at Texas.
Despite entering the game in Austin as 21-point favorites, a heroic 4th quarter effort was needed from Bryce Young for Alabama to escape Austin with a one-point win.
— Emmanuel Acho (@EmmanuelAcho) September 10, 2022
The offense sputtered against Texas, resulting in 6 punts. The most shocking aspect of the effort was Alabama’s 15 penalties – an uncharacteristically sloppy output for a Nick Saban team.
The offensive line struggled to protect Bryce Young against the Texas front, which led to highly-touted true freshman Tyler Booker receiving playing time the following week.
In the eyes of Nick Saban, the freshman impressed and will challenge for starting reps moving forward.
Last week’s game against UL-Monroe was a good get-right spot for Alabama, as they cruised to a 63-7 win. Still, two interceptions from Bryce Young in that game may be some cause for concern.
Promising Start from Vandy
Expectations coming into the season were a bit different for Vanderbilt.
While Alabama was heavily favored to win the conference at SEC Media Days, Vandy was a strong favorite to finish last in the East division. After a 2-10 debut season for Head Coach Clark Lea, it’s understandable.
While SEC play has not begun yet, Vanderbilt’s showing in non-conference play has provided a glimmer of hope, particularly on offense.
In a 3-1 start, the ‘dores are averaging 42 points and 437 yards per game.
There’s a real QB battle as well.
In last week’s win over Northern Illinois, Swann was the hero.
AJ SWANN ARE YOU SERIOUS?!?
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) September 17, 2022
Vanderbilt stood strong in the face of adversity, rallying to defeat the Huskies on the road. On the back of that performance, Swann will get the nod against Alabama.
For a team that many expected to win only a game or two, three wins to start the year is significant progress.
While history would suggest a blowout, Nick Saban is not one to overlook any opponent.
In media availability, Alabama’s head coach praised Clark Lea and the progress Vanderbilt has shown in his second year.
The last time these two faced off, it was a fairly similar setup.
In 2017, the Commodores received some early season hype after a 3-0 start and a win over Kansas State.
Fans of both teams likely haven’t forgotten this clip:
— Justin Beasley (@JBeasleyOpinion) September 17, 2017
What happened next was not pretty for the Commodores.
In a 59-0 shellacking, the Tide outgained Vanderbilt 677-78 in total yards. Then-freshman Tua Tagovailoa was able to flash his abilities late in the blowout.
— hockey (@hunteransley) January 9, 2018
On Saturday, Vanderbilt fans would likely be pleased with a competitive effort. When you’re building a program back to relevancy in the SEC, so-called “moral victories” are possible.
We’ll see Saturday if Vanderbilt looks like an SEC team under Clark Lea.
The game will be carried by SEC Network, with kickoff at 7:30 ET.