You could look at Saturday's matchup between the Vanderbilt Commodores and Kentucky Wildcats in two different ways. On paper, this one looks like it could be a defensive struggle. The Commodores' defense has slowly gotten better and better each week, including a real clampdown of Mississippi State last week. Meanwhile, the Wildcats are second in the SEC in total defense and have had plenty of bright spots this season.
On the other hand, it could be a game between one mistake-laden offense vs. a three-legged dog of an offense, which will be (not) fun to watch. Vanderbilt (0-5) has to be gnashing its teeth over losing that game to Mississippi State after out-yarding the Bulldogs 478 to 204 and earning 30 first downs to their 14, yet suffering five turnovers. Kentucky (2-4) has had two weeks to reflect on how their season has spiraled and their offense has received numerous rounds of boos from their fans.
Vanderbilt at Kentucky
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 14 at 12 p.m. ET
TV: SEC Network
Spread: Kentucky -17
When Vanderbilt Has the Ball
Keep utilizing the new weapons. Wide receiver Cam Johnson and tight end Ben Bresnahan have been leaned on way too often for this Commodore offense, earning 40 of the 80 catches going into last week's game against Mississippi State. But the Dores did a good job of spreading the wealth vs. the Bulldogs, especially with running back Keyon Henry-Brooks, who ended up with 212 total yards and led the game with 11 catches. Getting wideout Chris Pierce back was a big help as well, netting six catches for 76 yards and a touchdown.
Grow the confidence. True freshman quarterback Ken Seals has drastically improved his numbers over the last few weeks. In the first two games, he hit just 57 percent of his passes for 263 yards. In the last three games, Seals has connected on 73 percent of his attempts for 803 yards. He just looks more comfortable and confident in the pocket and leading the team. But then there is also this…
Throw to the same-colored jerseys. My gawd! Vanderbilt ran circles around Mississippi State last week, as mentioned above. But those turnovers were gut-wrenching. Seals threw three picks and also lost a key fumble with less than four minutes left in the game, killing their chances of completing the comeback. The remedy is pretty simple — just throw the ball to your teammates, not the other team.
When Kentucky Has the Ball
Wait and see if UK is still struggling. This Wildcat passing offense has been messier than nine o'clock New York City traffic. Quarterbacks Terry Wilson and Joey Gatewood have combined to average just 81 passing yards per game and totaled just 41 total completions in the last four games. In this day and age, that's viewed as an Edsel among Lamborghinis. As mentioned in my preview of their game vs. Georgia, UK offensive coordinator Eddie Gran is feeling plenty of heat for what has been a listless offense. So key in on the first few series of the game. Is the play-calling vanilla? Is there a sense of urgency? Is there any fire in this team? Hell, is the pilot light even on?
Wear 'em down. Passing game aside, the Wildcats will still need to do what they do, and that is run the ball. And I mean effectively, none of this two yards per carry B.S. Either way, you can't ignore the numbers. The Wildcats are third in the SEC in rushing averaging 176.2 yards per game and Vanderbilt is 11th in the SEC in stopping the run, surrendering 160.6 yards per game and a hearty 5.3 yards per carry.
The ever-improving Vanderbilt defense. There were a ton of positives about the play of the Commodore defense in last week's loss to Mississippi State. As mentioned above, they limited the Bulldogs to just 204 yards (-22 rushing, by the by) and got three sacks, five tackles for a loss, and six pass breakups. Most impressively, the Dores held MSU to one third-down conversion from the 12-minute mark of the second quarter onward.
Both of these teams could use a W in order to improve their respective psyches. The Commodores see this as possibly their last chance for a win this season (though you could argue the game at Missouri on Dec. 12 is another possibility). The Wildcats have seen their season spiral and now look beyond this game and see that SEC monsters Alabama and Florida are next. That's pain, man.
The Wildcats are favored by 17 points, but I'm not really sure either offense is even capable of scoring that many points. The Big Blue gets a defensive touchdown to make the difference in this one.
Prediction: Kentucky 17, Vanderbilt 10
Podcast: Week 11 Preview and Predictions
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.