USA Today/Jim Brown

Previewing the Kentucky Wildcats' matchup with the Vanderbilt Commodores

Everything you need to know about Kentucky's matchup with Vanderbilt on Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium. It's a key game for both the Wildcats and the Commodores if either 2-3 squad has realistic hopes of earning a bowl bid this season.

KENTUCKY vs. VANDERBILT

WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 8, 4 p.m. ET

WHERE: Commonwealth Stadium (61,000) Lexington, Ky.

TV: SEC Network

RECORDS: Kentucky (2-3, 1-2 SEC); Vanderbilt (2-3, 0-2 SEC)

COACHES: Kentucky Mark Stoops (4th year, 14-27); Vanderbilt Derek Mason (3rd year, 9-20)

RANKINGS: Kentucky NR; Vanderbilt NR

LAST GAME: Kentucky lost 34-6 last week at Alabama; Vanderbilt lost 13-6 last week at home vs. Florida.

LINE: Kentucky -3

SERIES RECORD: Tied 42-42-4

BIG BLUE KEYS TO THE GAME:

When Kentucky has the ball… The Wildcats will have to solve an occasionally-stingy Vandy defense which held Florida to 13 points last weekend in Nashville. The Dores don't have great defensive numbers on the season (11th in the SEC at 23.6 ppg, 11th in the SEC at 409.2 ypg) but they have been opportunistic with nine forced turnovers. That's been the bugaboo for the Cats, who enter the game dead last in the league with a minus-7 turnover margin. Quarterback Stephen Johnson committed two fumbles last week on Alabama's side of the field. He can't afford to do that on Saturday. Look for UK to lean heavily on the running back trio of Boom Williams (486 yards, 7.3 ypc), Benny Snell (247 yards, 6.0 ypc) and Jojo Kemp (75 yards, 2 TD). The Cats' offense will also benefit from the healthy return of junior wide receiver Dorian Baker, who has been sidelined since late summer with a hamstring injury. He was UK's leading receiver a year ago and should provide a nice boost to the corps. One of the best matchups to keep an eye on will be UK's offensive line against the Dores' Adam Butler (No. 69, 6-4, 295) a fifth-year senior who wreaked havoc on Florida's O-Line last week. Inside linebacker Zach Cunningham (No. 41, 6-4, 230) is a fourth-year junior who currently leads the SEC in tackles at 10.4 per game.

When Vanderbilt has the ball…  The Commodores have struggled royally to score this season, ranking 13th in the SEC at 20.2 points per game. They run a unique offense that Derek Mason brought with him from his time at Stanford. In an era when most schools are running some form of spread offense, Vandy often utilizes two tight ends, a fullback and a tailback. The latter is a good one, junior Ralph Webb (No. 7, 5-10, 202) who currently leads the SEC in rushing at 116.4 yards per game. Webb is only 503 yards away from becoming the program's all-time leading rusher. He's a tough, physical challenge for a UK defense that ranks 12th in the league, allowing 198.6 yards per game on the ground. It's another big test for the Cats' improving front seven, led by sophomore linebacker Jordan Jones (2nd SEC with 51 tackles). Unfortunately for the Dores, quarterback play has not been up to par. Sophomore Kyle Shurmur (No. 14, 6-4, 223) completed only nine of 25 attempts for 82 yards and was intercepted once last week against the Gators. He got poked in the eye during that game and is expected to wear a special protective shield on Saturday against the Cats. It will be interesting to see how much that affects his vision against a solid UK secondary that has six interceptions (4th in SEC) this season. Vandy's leading receiver, Kalijia Lipscomb (No. 16, 6-1, 190) has just 14 catches for 189 yards and two touchdowns.

MILESTONE WATCH:

Kentucky junior wide receiver Garrett Johnson needs only seven yards to pass Steve Meilinger (1951-53) for 20th on UK's all-time receiving list at 1,211. Likewise, senior running back Jojo Kemp can move past Bobby Cravens (1956-58) and into 20th on UK's all-time rushing list with 14 yards to reach 1,449 for his career.

ON THIS DAY IN UK HISTORY:

Kentucky defeated Mississippi State 23-7 on Oct. 8, 1977, at Commonwealth Stadium. The Bulldogs were the first of a four-game stretch which saw the UK defense allow only 20 combined points. The Wildcats went on to post a 10-1 record, outscoring opponents 252-111. 

NOTES:

  • Kentucky marks the 101st anniversary of its first Homecoming game on Saturday.
  • The Cats' Benny Snell Jr., a freshman running back, ranks third in the SEC with five rushing touchdowns.
  • Vandy is playing a road game for the third time in the last four weeks.
  • UK has two Tennessee natives on its roster, both from the Nashville area, in RB Harold Turks and LS Colton Piatt; Vandy has one Bluegrass State native on its roster, safety Ryan White from Louisville.
  • The all-time series record is tied at 42-42-4, while the last 10 meetings have also been split at 5-5.
  • UK has won 28 consecutive games, the longest streak in the SEC, when leading at the end of the third quarter.

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