Vanderbilt football vs. Tennessee Vols: Score prediction, scouting report

The stakes are high for Vanderbilt football's matchup with Tennessee — and in a twist no one saw coming, the stakes may be higher for the Commodores than the Vols.

Though Tennessee (9-2, 5-2 SEC) is still vying for a New Year's Six bowl, its hopes of the College Football Playoff are gone after a loss to South Carolina. Meanwhile, Vanderbilt (5-6, 2-5) can become bowl eligible with a win on Saturday (6:30 p.m. CT, SEC Network) after beating Kentucky and Florida.

The Commodores have won five of the last 10 matchups with the Vols, but lost each of the last three. The past matchup Vanderbilt fans are hoping to repeat was in 2016, when the Commodores beat an 8-3 Tennessee squad for their sixth win.

Here's what to know about the matchup:

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QB questions

Star Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker is out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL suffered Saturday. Replacing him will be backup Joe Milton, a big, hard thrower who can struggle with accuracy. Milton has strong numbers this year (23-for-33, 573 yards, six touchdowns, no interceptions) but most of his playing time has been in garbage time against lower-level teams.

Meanwhile, Vanderbilt has a quarterback question of its own. Freshman AJ Swann missed the last two games with an injury. Mike Wright led the team to wins in both games. With just one game to go, whether Swann will return is unclear.

Tough tempo

Vanderbilt will have to contend with Josh Heupel's up-tempo offense. The tempo means Tennessee has the ability to score quickly, something that has bitten Vanderbilt all season. It could also test the Commodores' defensive depth, as Vanderbilt tends to stick to its top few players on defense.

While Milton has a somewhat similar skillset to Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson, the tempo adds an extra wrinkle that Vanderbilt will need to prepare for.

Pass attacks

Both Vanderbilt and Tennessee have decent run defenses but have struggled to defend the pass. That could make for an interesting matchup as the Commodores typically go with a run-heavy offense, especially if Wright is at quarterback. The Vols, meanwhile, will likely want to incorporate the quarterback run game more with Milton, but Vanderbilt has generally been able to stop the quarterback run thanks to lots of practice against Wright.

The Commodores may have to live with giving up a few downfield bombs if they can stop the offense from moving the ball consistently, but even without Hooker, Vanderbilt will have to figure out how to score consistently to keep up with Tennessee.

Score prediction

Tennessee 38, Vanderbilt 24: The loss of Hooker makes this one a lot closer than it otherwise could have been, but even with a backup quarterback, Vanderbilt doesn't match up well with the Vols.

Aria Gerson covers Vanderbilt athletics for The Tennessean. Contact her at agerson@gannett.com or on Twitter @aria_gerson.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Vanderbilt football score prediction, scouting report vs. Tennessee