Across the (By)Line: Vanderbilt Commodores


Jack Weaver

Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Will Levis (7) throws a pass 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

The “Across the (By)Line” series gives Kentucky football fans an in-depth look at their opponent for this week — from the mind of the opposing school’s sports desk.

This week: The Vanderbilt Hustler, Lucas Rollfinke, Vanderbilt

Do you think Kentucky might be overlooking Vanderbilt too much going into this matchup? Do you see trap game potential?

Yes, but understandably so. Vanderbilt hasn’t won a conference game in two years and has only come close on a handful of occasions so it makes sense why Kentucky, who faces Georgia the following week, might be looking past them. That being said, I could see this becoming a trap game, especially if Kentucky’s offense gets out to a slow start. With Mike Wright under center, the Commodore offense is built to play with a lead. While Wright doesn’t possess the arm talent of AJ Swann (who will miss the game with an injury), he and running back Ray Davis are a deadly tandem out of the backfield that can cause problems for even the best SEC defenses. If the Commodores commit to the ground game and sustain long drives, Kentucky could easily find themselves in a one-score game late in the fourth quarter.

It feels like Vandy’s games at Kroger Field are always close, often even closer than in Nashville. Why do you think that is?

A lot of it has stemmed from game scripts. In recent years, Kentucky has relied heavily on the running game when taking on Vanderbilt. This keeps the clock moving and the games relatively low scoring, allowing the Commodores to stay within one or two possessions. I also think Vanderbilt is comfortable playing on the road because the culture surrounding their home games isn’t quite at the same level as most other SEC programs. Over the past few years, it has become common for opposing fan bases to take over the stadium, forcing the Commodores to become accustomed to playing in environments similar to the one they will encounter at Kroger Field. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues under Clark Lea, as this will be his first trip to Lexington as Vanderbilt’s head coach.

How do you see Vanderbilt’s defense holding up against Kentucky’s offense?

Not well. Vanderbilt’s defense has underperformed all season, especially in conference play, allowing 43.4 points per game to SEC opponents. The primary problem has been an inability to eliminate big plays, something Kentucky should be able to take advantage of given the arm talent of Will Levis. I would be surprised if the Wildcats don’t connect on at least one touchdown pass of 50+ yards. That being said, the one area I could see the Commodore defense having success in is forcing turnovers. Kentucky has turned the ball over two or more times in four of their last five games and Vanderbilt is among the nation’s top teams in forcing and recovering fumbles. If they can find a way to force a few turnovers this weekend, the defense could keep the game within reach.

Vegas currently has Kentucky -18; do you think that’s fair? What do you think is going to happen on Saturday?

Given the recent performances of each of these teams, that line feels somewhat steep. However, I still anticipate Kentucky taking care of business on their home turf thanks to strong performance from Levis and the passing attack. I’ll take the Wildcats to win 30-20 in a game reminiscent of the one played in Nashville last fall.