Vanderbilt (2-7) at Kentucky (5-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: November 13th, 12:21 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Commonwealth Stadium (65,000) -- Lexington, Kentucky. Television: SEC Network. Home Record: Vanderbilt 1-4, Kentucky 4-2. Away Record: Vanderbilt 1-3, Kentucky 1-3. Neutral Record: Vanderbilt 0-0, Kentucky 0-0. Conference Record: Vanderbilt 1-5, Kentucky 1-5. Series Record: Kentucky leads, 40-38-4.
GAME NOTES: A pair of unranked SEC teams will clash in Lexington this weekend, as the Kentucky Wildcats entertain the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Not much has gone right for Robbie Caldwell in his first season as the head coach at Vanderbilt, as his team has lost seven of its nine games to date. The last four outings have resulted in double-digit defeats, including last week's 55-14 beating at the hands of Florida. The Commodores are 1-5 versus SEC competition, as the lone league victory came over Ole Miss back in mid- September.
The Wildcats are also led by a first-year head coach in Joker Phillips, who has seen his team split its 10 games thus far. Kentucky halted a two-game slide last weekend with a 49-21 romp over Charleston Southern, a FCS club. Phillips' team needs just one more victory to become bowl eligible, and only a road clash with Tennessee remains on the schedule after this weekend's affair.
Kentucky owns a 40-38-4 series lead over Vanderbilt, which includes wins in five of the last six meetings.
Vanderbilt is among the worst offensive teams in the FBS, as the club is generating only 17.8 ppg and 267.0 total ypg. With recent season-ending injuries to tailbacks Warren Norman and Zac Stacy, things could get even worse as the regular season winds to an end. The top runner still on the active roster is Larry Smith, the team's quarterback, with 193 yards. Smith has struggled under center, completing only 49.5 percent of his passes for 1,058 yards and six touchdowns with four interceptions. Backup QB Jared Funk has been even worse, and while Brandon Barden is a solid receiver, he has only 24 catches through nine outings.
Against Florida last week, Vanderbilt finished with an embarrassingly low total of 109 yards, including 46 yards on 38 rushing attempts. The Commodores were a dreadful 2-of-16 on third-down conversion attempts and turned the ball over three times. Smith was sacked four times before turning over the reins to Funk, who didn't do any better.
While the Vanderbilt defense played well in some games early on, things have fallen apart recently. The club is now allowing an average of 30.9 ppg and 421.3 total ypg. Of the 31 touchdowns allowed to opposing offenses, 16 have been of the rushing variety, but there is plenty of room for improvement against both means of attack. Vandy has come up with just 12 takeaways through nine tilts, but Casey Hayward does deserve special mention for posting five interceptions to date.
Give the Vanderbilt defense credit for limiting Florida to three scores on five trips to the red zone and 7-of-19 success on third-down conversions. Still, the unit yielded 480 total yards and six touchdowns to the Gator offense.
The Vanderbilt defense will certainly be challenged this weekend by a potent Kentucky offensive attack. The Wildcats are generating 34.4 ppg and 427.7 total ypg, and there is significant talent at the skill positions. One of the nation's most exciting an versatile players is Randall Cobb, and he has done a bit of everything for Kentucky this season. Cobb has caught 63 passes for 783 yards and seven touchdowns, and he has also thrown three touchdown passes. As a runner, he has picked up 206 yards and three scores on 37 carries, and Cobb has even returned a punt for a score.
Mike Hartline, the Kentucky quarterback, has completed 65.7 percent of his passes for 2,674 yards and 21 touchdowns with eight interceptions, and in addition to Cobb, he has favored Chris Matthews. A tremendous talent in his own right, Matthews has hauled in 46 balls for 715 yards and eight touchdowns. As for the tailbacks, Derrick Locke is tops with 574 yards and seven scores, but a shoulder injury has kept him out of action recently and may do so again this Saturday.
Donald Russell, who has stepped in to run the ball in Locke's absence, racked up 110 yards and two touchdowns on just 10 carries against Charleston Southern. The Wildcats rolled up over 500 total yards in that game, and Hartline threw for 272 yards and two scores. Both Cobb and Matthews reached the end zone, but Kentucky only held the ball for 20 minutes and turned it over twice, so the effort certainly wasn't perfect.
Foes are generating 29.8 ppg against Kentucky, which is allowing 341.7 total ypg. The Wildcats are giving up 4.6 yards per rushing attempt and 13.1 yards per pass completion, so there is obviously room for improvement against both means of attack. A total of 12 takeaways have been mustered, a rather low figure considering 10 games have been played, and just 14 sacks have been registered. Danny Trevathan has recorded 110 total tackles, 12.5 TFLs and three forced fumbles to lead Kentucky in all three categories.
The Wildcats limited Charleston Southern to 269 total yards last weekend. They permitted only 2.9 yards per rushing attempt and 8.6 yards per pass completion. a solid all-around effort for sure.
Expect the home team to win convincingly this weekend, as Kentucky is significantly more talented than Vanderbilt. Keep an eye on Cobb, as he is a remarkable performer.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Kentucky 38, Vanderbilt 13
11/10 10:57:17 ET