It is one of the SEC's oldest rivalries, but historically, it hasn't meant much for either team. However, in this year's contest, major program implications could be on the line when the Wildcats take on the Commodores in Nashville. Both teams come into this one with hopes of a bowl game in the near future.
For Kentucky, hopes of a bowl are a bit more realistic. The Wildcats are 4-5 (2-5 SEC), but have lost four straight games to conference opponents. It is beginning to look a lot like last year with a hot start only to end in disappointment. But there is still hope for Kentucky. A win over Vandy would get the 'Cats to five wins with a game against Charlotte looming next week.
Vanderbilt can't afford another loss if it wants to keep bowl game hopes alive. The Commodores are 3-6 (1-4 SEC) but still have to play Texas A&M and Tennessee. They have proven their ability to hang with division foes, having beaten Missouri and coming awfully close to knocking off Florida a week ago. It isn't likely, but there's still a chance for Vandy to get to the postseason. The 'Dores are better this year.
This series is nearly deadlocked at 42-41-4 in favor of the Wildcats. At least it would appear that way, but the truth is Vanderbilt beat Kentucky 16 times before 1939. So really, the 'Cats have the upper hand in the modern era. The Commodores have won three of the last four.
Kentucky at Vanderbilt
Kickoff: 4 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: SEC Network
Spread: Vanderbilt -3
Three Things to Watch
1. Which quarterback will throw the most interceptions?
Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason's biggest struggle since arriving in Nashville has been figuring out who to play at quarterback. The Commodores tried three in one game against Temple last year. This season, Johnny McCrary has been the go-to guy, but Kyle Shurmur has also taken snaps the past few weeks. McCrary will probably play the most on Saturday, but he has thrown 12 picks this year. Kentucky's Patrick Towles hasn't looked much better, throwing 12 himself. Towles' upside is his occasional ability to throw the deep ball. If there were an over/under for turnovers in this game, my guess is that it would be pretty high.
2. Will the Vanderbilt defense continue to be stifling?
The Commodores' defense has kept them in games for the most part, other than an abysmal 34-0 defeat at the hands of Houston. Even the losses to Georgia and Ole Miss earlier in the season were close for most of the game. Vandy only gave up nine points to the Gators last week. On average, the Commodores are giving up just over 17 points per game. Kentucky has had trouble finding the end zone in its five losses, especially last week when it only managed a field goal against Georgia. This game is shaping up to be another low-scoring affair and by now, Vanderbilt should have the advantage in that kind of game.
3. Whose seat will be warmer after the game?
I use the word "warm" because neither coaches seat will be on fire after this one. Still yet, a loss on Saturday won't do much to quiet the naysayers in Lexington or Nashville. Mark Stoops is in year three at Kentucky and has an 11-22 record. For the second consecutive year, it looks as though his team has lost steam during the second half of the schedule and folks are beginning to take notice. Mason probably has another year guaranteed to get his program's foundation set, but after beating Missouri, Commodore fans are expecting another win against a beatable division opponent.
Two programs that have historically dwelled near the bottom of the SEC standings, Kentucky and Vanderbilt, have a lot to play for this weekend. A Kentucky win will almost guarantee bowl eligibility for the Wildcats. A Vanderbilt win will provide more tangible momentum for the Commodores and at least keep bowl hopes alive. But as always, someone has to lose. It just seems as though Vanderbilt is playing better down the stretch, despite a couple tough losses. Kentucky looks like it has lost all hope. I'll take the home team with the better defense in this one.