2024 Alabama Football Early Opponent Preview, Game 5: Vanderbilt

BamaCentral takes a long first look at each of the Crimson Tide's upcoming opponents this season with the Vanderbilt Commodores featured next.
Sep 23, 2017; Nashville, TN, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide running back Damien Harris (34) dives into the end zone for a touchdown during the first half against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Vanderbilt Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 23, 2017; Nashville, TN, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide running back Damien Harris (34) dives into the end zone for a touchdown during the first half against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Vanderbilt Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports / © Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama goes back to Broadway for the first time since 2017 this fall sparking immediate thoughts wondering what former Vanderbilt defensive lineman Nifae Lealao is up to.

Lealao haphazardly taunted the Crimson Tide by saying, "Alabama, you're next" in celebrating the Commodores' 3-0 start, but his words only served as fuel as Alabama went to Nashville and beat Vanderbilt 59-0.

Vanderbilt has only won 20 games in the six years since those words with seven being conference victories. The 'Dores have changed coaches and renovated its stadium but still can't seem to gain any traction in the SEC.

Clark Lea eases into his fourth year in charge in Nashville with two winnable games in the first four weeks. Lea has committed himself to the defensive side of the ball as they were one of the worst teams in the country last season.

Alabama and Vanderbilt get their first look at the SEC's new scheduling policy as they've been selected for its "Afternoon" window, meaning the game could kick off anywhere between 2:30-3:30 p.m. CT.

Expect the Alabama faithful to travel well for this matchup, with it only being a short drive up I-65, a middle of the afternoon game and what may be the cheapest SEC ticket of the season.

Offense

Vanderbilt's offense was decimated by graduation and transfer portal defections after the 2023 season. Quarterback AJ Swann transferred to LSU. Leading receiver Will Sheppard graduated while London Humphreys transferred to Georgia and Jayden McGowan to Boston College.

The Commodores finished dead last in the SEC in total offense in 2023 and therefore moved on from coordinator Joey Lynch. Tim Beck becomes the new offensive coordinator by way of New Mexico State, bringing quarterback Diego Pavia with him. Pavia completed 60-percent of his passes for the Aggies for 2,973 yards with 26 touchdowns and only nine interceptions in 2023. The Commodores were fortunate to keep, now sophomore, running back Sedrick Alexander as he led the team in rushing as a freshman with 371 yards and four scores.

Beck will bring his Pro Spread style offense to Nashville after guiding New Mexico State to the 63rd overall offense in FBS, averaging 27.5 points and 412 yards per game.

Defense

Vanderbilt's defense was porous at best in 2023 finishing 129th in FBS in 2023, allowing 36.2 points and 454.9 yards per game. Every opponent, other than FCS Alabama A&M, scored at least 28 points on the 'Dores, prompting Lea to shuffle his staff's duties in 2024.

Lea takes over as the primary defensive coordinator for the upcoming season while linebackers coach Nick Lezynski becomes defensive run game coordinator. Both men will be aided by Steve Gregory as the associate defensive coordinator.

On the field the scheme will look similar to Alabama as Lea will implement a 4-2-5 to try to slow teams down. Vanderbilt brings back leading tackler Langston Patterson along with three new additions from the transfer portal. Khordae Sydnor looks to make a name for himself on the defensive line after leaving Purdue while Randon Fontenette and Marlon Jones Jr. sure up the defensive back field from TCU and Eastern Washington.

Schedule

The Crimson Tide will be coming off a grueling contest against the Georgia Bulldogs the week prior. The game will undoubtedly take a toll on Alabama regardless of the outcome. However there's no rest for the Crimson Tide as the program's now entering the heart of the second phase of the regular season as they face the second of five SEC games in a row.

Vanderbilt will likely be the fresher of the two squads as they're not coming off a matchup against the Bulldogs but also have a BYE week before the Crimson Tide rolls into Nashville. It'll also be the Commodores' second conference game and their SEC slate doesn't start easy either. Vanderbilt has to travel to conference dark horse Missouri two weeks before taking on the Crimson Tide.

Outlook

The Crimson Tide will likely be a heavy favorite despite the fact that it is an SEC matchup. While former Alabama head coach Nick Saban is no longer in charge his 172-13 aggregate score in four games against Vanderbilt give a picture of the talent disparity between the two programs. The last time the Crimson Tide played in Nashville the game ended 59-0 in 2017 so the Vanderbilt faithful are likely just looking to cover what will be a monstrous spread.

The Game

Date

October 5

Time

Afternoon Window - 2:30-3:30 p.m. CT

TV

ESPN Family of Networks - To Be Announced

Location

FirstBank Stadium

Series

Alabama leads: 60-19-4

Last Meeting

Sept. 24 2022: Alabama 55, Vanderbilt 3

The Team

Coach

Clark Lea

Offensive Coordinator

Tim Beck

Defensive Coordinator

Clark Lea / Steve Gregory - Associate Defensive Coordinator

2023 Record

2-10 (0-8)

2023 Rankings

Total offense: No. 104; Total defense: No. 129

Returning Starters

9, 4 on offense, 5 on defense

Players to Watch

Sophomore running back Sedrick Alexander returns after leading the Commodores in rushing in 2023. Defensively 2023's leading tackler, linebacker Langston Patterson, is back for his junior year.

Top Newcomer

Vanderbilt brought in quarterback Diego Pavia from New Mexico State and Texas Tech wide receiver Loic Fouonji on the offensive side of the ball as well as Mississippi State interior lineman Steven Losoya. Defensively, the Commodores snagged defensive back Randon Fontenette out of TCU and defensive lineman Khordae Sydnor out of Purdue.

Biggest Question

Can Vanderbilt make a bowl game in Clark Lea's fourth season in charge? Lea's first season in charge the 'Dores put up a measly 2-10 record, but in year two they improved to 5-7. Unfortunately life if always tough in the SEC for Vanderbilt as Lea's program regressed back to 2-10 in 2023. Vanderbilt has winnable games on its schedule in Alcorn State, Georgia State and Ball State, but needs to find three more if they're to qualify for their first bowl appearance since 2018.

The School

Location

Nashville, Tenn.

Founded

1873

Enrollment

13,710

Nickname

Commodores

Colors

Black and Gold

Mascot

Mr. C

The Program

Last Time Beat Alabama

1984

Last Time Won SEC

Never

National Championships

6: 1906, 1910, 1911, 1918, 1921, 1922

Playoff Appearances

None

Conference Championships

14: Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (1897, 1901, 1903, 1904, 1905, 1906, 1907, 1910, 1911, 1912, 1915, 1921) SoCon (1922, 1923)

Bowl Record

4-4-1

Last Time Missed Bowl

2023

Heisman Trophies

None

2024 NFL Draft

None

Last Four Recruiting Class Rankings

No. 40 (2024), No. 53 (2023), No. 32 (2022), No. 49 (2021)

The Schedule


Aug. 31: Virginia Tech
Sept. 7: Alcorn State
Sept. 14: at Georgia State
Sept. 21: at Missouri
Sept. 28: BYE
Oct. 5: Alabama
Oct. 12: at Kentucky
Oct. 19: Ball State
Oct. 26: Texas
Nov. 2: at Auburn
Nov. 9: South Carolina
Nov. 16: BYE
Nov. 23: at LSU
Nov. 30: Tennessee



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Joe Gaither

JOE GAITHER

My name is Joe Gaither, I am a native of Chattanooga, Tenn., and a 2018 graduate of the University of Alabama. I have a strong passion for sports and giving a voice to the underserved. Feel free to email me at joegaither6@icloud.com for tips, story ideas or comments.