These Commodores have experience, with 14 starters back from last season. They are 3-1 and scoring 42 points a game.
More than anything, head coach Clark Lea has changed the culture in Nashville.
“Their players play really hard and play with confidence,” Saban said. “They believe in what they’re doing offensively, defensively, special teams. I think culture is the biggest thing you try to establish in a program and they’ve got some pretty good players.”
Those “better players” include skill players that are better than Vanderbilt normally has, including better quarterbacks, Saban added.
“They play two quarterbacks,” he said. “Both of them are very, very capable, very good athletes. They run the ball. They run some option. They are very capable passing. (Will) Sheppard is one of the leading receivers in the SEC.”
The coach of No. 2 Alabama (3-0) said Vandy’s defense has given up some yards but has played well enough to be able to be effective in winning three games.
“This is a good, all-around team,” Saban said, “and it’s going to be a challenging game for us.”
After seeing a 14-6 halftime deficit turn into a 41-12 loss to Penn State, coach Bryan Harsin was asked if this week’s game is a must-win.
“I would categorize every Saturday as a must-win,” he said. “I don’t really have an answer for you there. Yes. All right, and anytime you ask me that from this point on, yes, all right, so it’s a must-win. That’s why we do what we do, right? I don’t think there’s a game I’ve ever told anybody, like, ‘Hey guys, we lose this one (and) we’re all right. We’ll get on the next one.’”
Harsin acknowledged that he understood the deeper point of the question, suggesting a tie to his job security.
“I know what you’re asking,” he said. “But … every single game, that’s what you do. For me, I know what the answer is. What’s hard is sometimes the guys (players) who sit in this room, they hear that stuff, too. It’s always that way. That (winning every game) should be the mindset.”
In other Alabama college action:
Jacksonville State at Nicholls State: Just when JSU felt it was sitting on top of the world, Coach Rich Rodriguez and his team were blown away 54-17 by the Tulsa Golden Hurricane of the FBS. The Gamecocks (3-1) step back into the world of the FCS as they travel to Thibodaux, Louisiana, for a 3 p.m. kickoff against the Colonel (0-3).
Marshall at Troy: The Trojans put up a fight before falling by four points to Appalachian State, which a week earlier handled the Aggies of Texas A&M. Troy (1-2) hosts the Thundering Herd (2-1) at 6 p.m. Saturday.
Western Carolina at Samford: After being blanked by the Georgia Bulldogs, Coach Chris Hatcher’s squad (2-1) outscored Tennessee Tech. The Bulldogs welcome Western Carolina (2-1) at 2 p.m. Saturday on ESPN3.
Miles at Central State: The Golden Bears (0-3) head to Ohio this week in pursuit of Sam Shade’s first win leading the team from Fairfield. Kickoff in Wilberforce is at noon Saturday against the Marauders (1-2).
Allen University at Tuskegee: The Golden Tigers (1-2) won a catfight last week as they outlasted the West Alabama Tigers. The first win of the 2022 season is the 700th official win in Tuskegee football program history. Reginald Ruffin looks to notch win No. 2 at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Hall of Fame Game in Montgomery’s Cramton Bowl. The Yellow Jackets are 0-2 after canceling their opener due to lightning.
West Georgia at West Alabama: The Tigers (2-1) tasted defeat last week for the first time this season. Kickoff Saturday is at 2 p.m. against the Wolves (2-0).
Louisiana Tech at South Alabama: South Alabama football nearly pulled off an upset last week as it held an eight-point advantage heading into the fourth quarter. But a 9-0 fourth-quarter UCLA run – including a 24-yard field goal as time expired – gave the Bruins a 32-31 victory at the Rose Bowl. The Jaguars (2-1) hope to get back on track against the Bulldogs (1-2) at 6 p.m. Saturday on ESPN Plus.
Belhaven at Huntingdon: The Hawks have been flying high this season, scoring at least 30 points each game, including their 47-7 win last week over Guilford. Huntingdon (2-1) welcomes the Blazers (2-0) at 1 p.m. Saturday. The visitors are averaging about 45 points per game.
Alabama A&M at Florida A&M: Coach Connell Maynor’s squad has no wins so far in 2022, giving up nearly 42 points a game. The Bulldogs (0-3) play their first Southwestern Athletic Conference game of the season, facing the Rattlers (1-2) in Tallahassee at 5 p.m. Central on ESPN Plus.
Prairie View A&M at Alabama State: The Hornets (2-1) picked up a big paycheck and a lopsided loss when they visited UCLA. Two weeks later, they welcome the Panthers (1-2) of the SWAC at 5 p.m. Saturday.
Point University at Birmingham-Southern: The Panthers (1-1) saw in-state rival Huntingdon eke out a three-point victory for the Wesley Cup on Sept. 10. At 6 p.m. Saturday, they welcome the Skyhawks (0-4).
Cumberland (Ky.) at Faulkner: The Eagles (1-2) host the Patriots (2-1) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
Idle this week: UAB.
Class 7A: Central-Phenix City (4-1) is among the top teams in the state, ranked No. 3 in the latest Alabama Sports Writers Association poll. Friday, they’ll host a squad with a national reputation, Florida’s IMG Academy (2-1).
Class 6A: Clay-Chalkville (5-0) is the top team in its classification. Friday, the Cougars will travel to Alabaster to take on Class 7A No. 3 Thompson (3-2), the three-time defending state champions.
Class 5A: No. 3 Ramsay (4-1) heads down U.S. 280 to face Class 7A No. 1 Auburn (5-0).
This week, the Rams will be facing the Auburn High School for Friday’s game!
📍Auburn High School
⏰7 PM pic.twitter.com/wqP3nO26k9
— Ramsay Football (@RamsayFootball) September 22, 2022
Class 4A: No. 5 Anniston (5-0) travels to Class 3A No. 1 Piedmont (3-1) tonight.
Class 3A: No. 5 Mobile Christian (4-1) greets Pensacola Catholic (4-0) on Friday.
Class 2A: No. 4 Pisgah (4-0) hosts Sylvania (3-1) on Friday.
Class 1A: No. 2 Leroy (3-0) plays at St. Luke’s (3-2) on Friday.
AISA: No. 2 Macon-East (4-0) is home against No. 3. Lee-Scott (4-0) on Friday.