The Edge: UK vs. Vanderbilt

Key matchups:

Derrick Locke vs. His shoulder

After missing four games with a shoulder stinger, Locke said that he plans to makes his comeback senior day against the Commodores.

Despite missing time because of injury, Locke still leads the Cats in rushing yards (574) and rushing touchdowns (seven); although young tailbacks Raymond Sanders, Donald Russell and CoShik Williams got plenty of playing time in Locke’s absence, UK head coach Joker Phillips said that no combination of players could replace one of Locke’s biggest assets: his speed.

“(Locke has the) ability to make plays in space and that is one of things we need to this week: make plays out on the perimeter,” Phillips said. “He’s a guy who can throw the ball out to in space, also…he gives us a lot of multiple formations on offense because of the things he can do”

Given that Locke set such high personal expectations for this season (he wanted to eclipse 1,400 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns), one has to believe he will be trying extra hard to impress the fans in his final home game.

“I want to give them something to miss when I’m gone,” Locke said.

Edge: Locke

UK defense vs. Not having to face Warren Norman

The injury woes of the Cats’ leading rusher may have improved, but the Commodores lost their top rusher and kick returner two weeks ago to a dislocated right wrist.

Norman was the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year in 2009 and set a conference record for all-purpose yards with 1,951.

Norman was also the sole catalyst for the Vanderbilt offense this season, leading the team with 77 carries for 459 yards and four touchdowns, in addition to a 25.4-yard average on kick returns. Given UK’s suspect run defense, Norman would have had a chance for a big day.

And to make matters worse, the Commodores’ No. 2 tailback, Zac Stacy, and No. 3 tailback, Wesley Tate, are unlikely to play against UK due to injury.

That leaves fourth-string senior tailback Kennard Reeves to boost an offense ranked 118th out of 120 Division I teams. Yikes.

Edge: UK defense

UK vs. Pressure to clinch bowl eligibility

Saturday’s game isn’t necessarily a must-win for the Cats to advance to a bowl game, however, a loss heading into their bye week would surely cause some anxiety.

Not only would the Cats have to stew in the defeat of losing to the SEC bottom-feeding Commodores for an extra seven days, but then UK would have to defeat the Tennessee Volunteers—something that hasn’t been done since 1984—in the final week of the season to become bowl eligible.

The general consensus among players this week at practice was that no slip-ups can happen this weekend. The players also want to get to the best bowl game available; meaning two wins in the final two games would go a long way to achieving that goal.

Moreover, the 16-man senior class doesn’t want the distinction of being the group that ended the UK bowl streak. These players have help begin the turnaround of this football program and now the pressure to continue this success is mounting.

Edge: UK

Final Edge: Sizeable edge for UK