Tennessee football is headed into its regular-season finale Chasing a 10-win season.
Tennessee (9-2, 5-2 SEC) plays at Vanderbilt (5-6, 2-5) on Saturday (7:30 pm ET, SEC Network)
Here is what to know about the matchup:
POST SEASON:Breaking down Tennessee Bowl projections from College Football Playoff rankings
HISTORY:10 crazy plays in Tennessee football rivalry with Vanderbilt you’ve never seen
Joe Milton’s time to shine
Joe Milton is Tennessee’s starting quarterback again after Hendon Hooker suffered a season-ending ACL injury against South Carolina. The big-armed backup has impressed in limited action this season after an erratic showing in early 2021.
“Joe has grown a bunch,” Vols Coach Josh Heupel said. “You guys have seen the way that he’s played when he’s been given the opportunity. He’s got really good command of what we’re doing.”
Milton has completed 69.7% of his passes for 573 yards and six touchdowns. He hasn’t thrown an interception and averages 17.4 yards per attempt. Milton started the first two games last season before Hooker took over. They transferred from Michigan prior to the 2021 season.
Tennessee football and a 10-win regular season
Tennessee needs a win Saturday to secure its first 10-win regular season since 2003. The Vols have already secured their first nine-win regular season since 2006. UT won nine games in 2015 and 2016 thanks to Bowl wins.
UT also reached the 10-win mark in 2007 with a Bowl win. UT has not won six SEC games since the 2007 season.
Vanderbilt is on a heater
Vanderbilt ended a 26-game SEC losing streak with its 24-21 win at Kentucky on Nov. 12. The Commodores kept it going a week later by knocking off Florida in a 31-24 win, which they controlled throughout.
Vanderbilt has won two SEC games in a row for the first time since 2018 when it beat Ole Miss and Tennessee.
How does Tennessee respond to the South Carolina loss?
Tennessee’s ceiling plummeted with its loss to South Carolina. The Vols are out of the College Football Playoff and likely out of the Sugar Bowl picture as well.
But UT still has a strong chance of being an at-large selection for a major Bowl game, such as the Cotton Bowl. The Vols have to win Saturday to stay in that picture, however, and that is a notable achievement for a program that was in Shambles 20 months ago.
“Obviously, in-state game and important that we go finish this off the right way and still have a lot of things that we’re playing for,” Heupel said.
The Commodores and fumbles
Vanderbilt scored a second-quarter touchdown against Florida when Gators punt returner Jason Marshall Jr. fumbled a punt. The ball bounced into the end zone, where Commodores long snapper Wesley Schelling recovered it for a touchdown.
The Commodores have recovered 10 fumbles this season, tied for third-most in the SEC.
Tennessee 43, Vanderbilt 27: Tennessee ends the regular season with a win to secure a top-tier Bowl game and Milton gives a preview of what Vols fans can expect next season.
Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @ByMikeWilson. If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.