Wildcats hope to sink Commodores to start home stretch


Jack Weaver

Kentucky Wildcats wide receiver Dane Key (6) and running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. (24) celebrate during the Kentucky vs. Missouri football game on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, at Faurot Field in Columbia, Missouri. UK won 21-17. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Cole Parke, Sports Editor

Kentucky football (6-3) looks to defeat Vanderbilt as it begins the final home stretch of the season.

The season thus far has not quite lived up to the expectations placed upon the program leading into the season, with narrow wins and a pair of losses many fans feel should have been wins.

That said, an 8-4, or even 9-3, season is still attainable for Kentucky and with that, a solid bowl game appearance to continue the Wildcats’ streak of four straight bowl game wins.

That all starts this Saturday with Vanderbilt, a team that UK fans are not looking very closely at and haven’t been all season long.

Since the first year under current head coach Mark Stoops, when Vanderbilt defeated the Cats 40-0, Kentucky has won seven of the last nine matchups, including the last six consecutively.

With the win streak, Vanderbilt is one of the few current SEC teams that the Wildcats boast a winning record against, leading the all-time series 48-42 with four ties.

Last year’s matchup saw the Wildcats travel to Nashville and win 34-17, snapping a three game losing streak in the process. Kentucky would then go on to win out to finish the season, including a win in the Vrbo Citrus Bowl over Iowa.

The Commodores were far from where they would have liked to have been last year, finishing the year 2-10 without a single SEC win, and even suffered a loss to an FCS opponent in East Tennessee State.

This year looks to be more of the same for Vandy, defeating its FCS opponent but currently standing at 0-5 in conference play and 3-6 on the season as a whole.

The Commodores are led on offense by freshman quarterback AJ Swann, who has thrown 1,195 passing yards this season for 10 touchdowns and just two interceptions, with the interception total putting him tied for seventh across all FBS quarterbacks for the metric.

On the ground, the Commodores are led by senior running back Ray Davis, who boasts 731 rushing yards for four touchdowns this season.

Beyond just Davis, the Commodores also have two other rushers – backup quarterback Mike Wright and running back Chase Gillespie, who have over 100 rushing yards this season.

As a whole the Commodores average 26.7 points per game, though this figure drops to 14.4 against conference opponents including two games, against then No. 2 Alabama and then No. 1 Georgia, where Vanderbilt was not even able to score five points.

On the defensive side of the ball the Commodores have allowed 36.7 points per game, but when factored for just conference play have allowed 43.4 points per game.

The lack of a strong defense favors the Wildcats who, for a variety of reasons, have struggled offensively this season despite boasting likely first round NFL Draft pick Will Levis at quarterback.

Kentucky’s offense continued to perform below the standard expected of them last weekend in Missouri, only scoring 21 points with a seven-point first half.
Despite that, Kentucky’s defense, which has held strong for the most part this season, poses a serious threat to a Vanderbilt offense that, similar to Kentucky, has struggled this season.

The Commodores enter the matchup in Lexington off the back of a 38-27 loss at home against South Carolina.

That said, Vanderbilt faced off against Missouri just one week prior in a matchup that resembled the one the Tigers just completed with UK, though Mizzou came out on top 17-14 over Vandy.

All in all, it would be hyperbolic to suggest that Vanderbilt was a 50-50 shot of beating Kentucky, even if anything is possible in the world of college football.

The real threat for the Wildcats comes in the trap-game potential the matchup holds.

The Vanderbilt game comes just one week before Kentucky’s matchup against the likely SEC East winners and reigning national champions in the Georgia Bulldogs.

If Kentucky looks beyond Vandy in favor of UGA then the Commodores may be able to steal their first SEC win of the season, especially considering they have lost by just one score in each of their last three games at Kroger Field.

Kentucky and Vanderbilt are currently scheduled to kick off at noon EST on Saturday, Nov. 12, with the game airing live on the SEC Network.