Alabama football vs. Vanderbilt: Score prediction and our scouting report

Nick Kelly
The Tuscaloosa News

Already, Vanderbilt has had a more successful season in 2022 compared to last season.

Coach Clark Lea and his staff have more wins this year through four games than the Commodores had in all of 2021. Vanderbilt finished with only two wins in Lea’s first season.

The Commodores (3-1) have beat Hawaii, Elon and Northern Illinois and lost to Wake Forest. None, however, provided a test like No. 2 Alabama football.

The Crimson Tide (3-0) will face the Commodores on Saturday (6:30 p.m., SEC Network) at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Here's our scouting report and score prediction for the game.

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Freshman QB gets first SEC start in Tuscaloosa

AJ Swann is going to have quite the introduction to the SEC.

The true freshman quarterback just started his first college game a week ago against Northern Illinois in a win. Now, he gets to face Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

That’s a ridiculous jump in level of competition, so Swann will likely have his hands full. He, at least, had a solid first start on which he can build. He threw for 255 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions in the win over Northern Illinois.

Swann supplanted Mike Wright in the starting lineup. Wright is a junior who started the first three games of the season. He threw for 426 yards, six touchdowns and one interception over that span. Wright is also a threat with his legs. He has the longest run of any SEC player this season with a scamper of 87 yards and is second in the conference with 8.25 yards per rush.

However, Wright was benched in the third quarter of the game against Wake Forest after he went 8-for-15 for 35 yards, no touchdowns and one interception.

Swann stepped in and finished 8-for-11 for 186 yards with two passing touchdowns.

“Both of them are very, very capable,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “Very good athletes.”

The job, however, appears to be Swann’s moving forward.

Will Sheppard the top target

No matter who’s at quarterback, it’s clear to whom Vanderbilt needs to get the ball: Will Sheppard.

The receiver leads the SEC with seven receiving touchdowns and 313 receiving yards on 23 receptions. Of course, he’s helped by an additional game with the Week 0 matchup. Still, that’s a strong stat line.

Saban mentioned him by name in his Monday press conference before the Vanderbilt game.

Anfernee Orji leads the way on defense

Blocking linebacker Anfernee Orji will need to be a focus for the Crimson Tide offense. Orji leads the SEC in tackles with 39, once again boosted by Vanderbilt having played a fourth game already. Still, it’s clear he is a player who Alabama will need to limit.

But overall, this Vanderbilt defense could be vulnerable. It ranks No. 101 in total defense (414.5 yards per game). The Commodores also rank fairly low in scoring defense, allowing 28.5 points per game. That sits at No. 87 in the country.

There should be plenty of opportunity for Bryce Young and the Alabama offense to continue to smooth out some issues as they move forward in SEC play.

Score prediction

Alabama 49, Vanderbilt 10: The Commodores might have three wins in four games, but none of those opponents will be confused with college football powers. Vanderbilt might be improved in Lea's second season, but there’s a wide gap between improvement at Vanderbilt and being able to compete with the Crimson Tide.