Head-to-head: Vanderbilt vs. Kentucky

Vanderbilt visits Kentucky on Saturday for a crucial SEC meeting with the Wildcats. VandyMania.com compares each team in several critical areas and predicts the final score.

Vanderbilt Passing Offense
Kentucky Passing Defense
Edge: Vandy

Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers has passed for 1,458 yards and five scores this season. Rodgers has been excellent lately for the 'Dores and has been without an interception since the road trip to Missouri four weeks ago. Last week against UMass the senior signal caller had his best performance of the season completing 17 for 21 passes for 217 yards and two scores.

Commodore receiver Jordan Matthews leads the team with 56 receptions for 775 receiving yards for 3 touchdowns. The junior also leads the conference averaging 106.8 receiving yards per SEC contest. Receiver Chris Boyd is second on the team with 29 catches for 541 receiving yards. Boyd, a reshirt junior, tallied four catches for 59 yards and his first score of the season against UMass.

The Wildcat secondary allowed a season-best 87 yards passing against Mizzou last week. Kentucky has started three true freshmen in the secondary with safeties Daron and Zack Blaylock and cornerback Cody Quinn earning starts for the Wildcats.

At cornerback true freshman Fred Tiller and J.D. Harmon have also seen playing time for UK. The Wildcats got an outstanding performance out of freshman walk-on J.D. Harmon who posted a career-best seven tackles and two interceptions last week at Missouri.

The Wildcats rank 67th in the country allowing opponents 237.8 passing yards per game.

Vanderbilt Rushing Offense
Kentucky Rushing Defense
Edge: Even

The Commodore rushing attack has continued to improve through the season and ranks 57th nationally averaging 166.13 yards rushing per game. Tailback Zac Stacy leads the team with 683 yards rushing and 5 touchdowns averaging 5.2 yards per carry. The senior running back became Vanderbilt's all-time leading rusher against Auburn with 2,685 yards career rushing yards. Stacy suffered an injury on The Opening drive against UMass last week and sat out the remainder of the game. The injury is stated to be minor and he is expected to play against the Wildcats.

Wesley Tate is third on the team with 57 carries for 208 yards and four touchdowns. In Stacy's absence the redshirt junior recorded career highs against UMass with 81 yards rushing on 15 carries.

True freshman Brian Kimbrow is second on the team with 286 yards rushing and leads the running backs averaging 8.7 yards per carry with 2 scores. Kimbrow led the 'Dores with seven carries for 98 yards against UMass and had a 74-yard run for a score in the third quarter.

Kentucky's rushing defense ranks 77th in the country allowing opponents 171.78 rushing yards per game. Middle linebacker Avery Williamson leads the Wildcats and the SEC with 95 tackles, including 2½ for a loss, an interception, and a forced fumble. Williamson has posted at least 10 tackles in six of nine games this season.

Sophomore Alvin Dupree has also been a constant force at outside linebacker and is second on the team with 64 tackles, a team-high 6½ tackles for a loss, and 3½ sacks.

Wildcat defensive end Collins Ukwu has 33 career starts for the Wildcats and is fifth on the team with 37 tackles, including 5 for a loss. The senior adds a team-highs in sacks (4), quarterback hurries (3), and forced fumbles (2).

Kentucky Rushing Offense
Vanderbilt Rushing Defense
Edge: Even
Junior tailbacks Raymond Sanders and Jonathan George lead a Kentucky ground game that ranks 105th in the country, averaging 117.2 rushing yards per game. Sanders tops the team with 460 yards rushing and 4 scores, averaging 57.5 rushing yards per game.

George is second on the team with 325 yards rushing, averaging 4.7 yards per carry, with 3 rushing scores. The junior exploded against Western Kentucky with 51 yards rushing and two scores, and six receptions for 54 yards and a score.

Kentucky tailbacks are averaging 4.9 yards per rushing attempt after losing senior Coshik Williams who is out the remainder of the season with a hip injury. Blocking for the pair is sophomore D.J. Warren who won the starting fullback job as a true freshman. Warren has a single carry for two yards this season.

Junior Chase Garnham leads the Vanderbilt linebacking corps with 50 tackles, including 7 for a loss, and a team-high 5 sacks. Garnham led the team with a Vanderbilt single-game high three sacks against Auburn.

Linebackers Karl Butler and Archibald Barnes have been a constant force on the outside. Barnes is fourth on the team with 42 tackles, including 2 for a loss, and a sack. Butler has tallied 35 tackles, a team-high 7½ tackles for a loss, with a sack and a forced fumble. Redshirt senior defensive tackle Rob Lohr leads the defensive line with 33 consecutive starts. Through eight games Lohr has tallied 13 tackles, including 4 for a loss, and a sack. True freshman linebackers Darreon Herring and Jake Sealand led the 'Dores in tackles a week ago against UMass. Herring led the team with 9 tackles. Sealand added a career-high 7 tackles, and his first career forced fumble and interception.

Kentucky Passing Offense
Vanderbilt Passing Defense
Edge: Vandy

True freshman Jalen Whitlow has started the last four games for the Wildcats since Maxwell Smith was injured against South Carolina. True freshman Patrick Towles is second on the depth chart and completed 5 for 6 passes for 71 yards and a score against Mississippi State.

La'Rod King leads the Wildcats with 36 receptions for 402 yards receiving and 4 touchdowns. The senior receiver currently ranks seventh in Kentucky history with 1,621 receiving yards, and fifth all-time with 17 career touchdown catches. Sophomore receiver Demarco Robinson is second on the team with 25 catches for 250 yards. Senior Kentucky receiver Aaron Boyd has emerged as an excellent contributor for the Wildcats with 19 catches for 172 yards and two scores. Redshirt freshman Daryl Collins has also contributed nicely with 15 catches for 156 yards receiving.

Senior cornerback Trey Wilson has a knack for getting into the end zone with 4 of his 5 career interceptions returned for touchdowns for the 'Dores. Wilson's four interceptions returned for scores rank second all-time in the SEC behind Tennessee's Jackie Walker who had five between 1969-71. Strong safety Javon Marshall leads the Commodores with 34 solo tackles and is third on the team with 48 tackles, and a forced fumble. Free safety Kenny Ladler leads the team with 51 tackles, a sack, an interception, and a forced fumble.

Special Teams
Edge: Even
Richard Kent has been outstanding punting this season averaging 45.6 yards per punt which is second in the SEC. Place kicker Carey Spear has made 11 of 14 field goals and has been solid for the 'Dores. Last week against the Minutemen, Jonathan Krause recorded the first punt return for a touchdown by a Commodore in 14 years. Freshman Brian Kimbrow has averaged 21.5 yards per kickoff return and has been close to taking one back with a long return of 43 yards. Kentucky punter Landon Foster is ranked seventh in the conference and 31st in the country averaging 42.6 yards per punt.

Senior Craig McIntosh is 5 for 10 from field goal range with each of his misses coming from 42 yards or more. The senior kicked a season-long field goals of 47 yards against Kent State and WKU. Senior defensive end Collins Ukwu blocked a field goal against Florida and blocked an extra point against Mizzou last week. True freshman DeMarcus Sweat averages 20.5 yards per kickoff return and had a Kentucky season-high return of 51 yards against WKU. Sophomore receiver Demarco Robinson is currently 12th in the conference averaging 6.3 yards per punt return.

Edge: Even
The Commodores have had issues in road trips this season dropping games to Northwestern and Georgia by a combined score of 71-16. The lone road win came against a battered Missouri squad and that was after a Commodore bye week. Junior offensive tackle Wesley Johnson spoke about the team's focus heading into Lexington, Ky., this week. "We really haven't put together a very good road game yet this year," Johnson admitted Monday. "We have a leadership council and we met and talked about trying to have everybody approach this week at practice with the right mindset of going on the road and playing our game, of not letting other things distract us like traveling and other team's fans, so we're just trying to focus on us and being the best Vanderbilt that we can be."

The Wildcats are still hungry for an SEC win and have played better at home than away. Last week in Missouri the Wildcats held the Tigers to a season low 273 yards of total offense. Kentucky ranks second in the SEC, suffering 35.11 penalty yards per contest.

Much like the Commodores, Kentucky has had one of the toughest schedules in the country with matchups with Louisville, Florida, South Carolina, Mississippi State, and Georgia. Those opponents have a combined record of 36-5 this season. Kentucky currently ranks 11th in the SEC in red zone defense with opponents converting 33 of 40 opportunities into 26 touchdowns and 7 seven field goals.

The Wildcats won't forget the embarrassing loss a year ago that sent their bowl chances from bad to bleak. This season Kentucky will be looking to do some more bowl busting after eliminating Tennessee from postseason play in 2011.

Edge: Vandy
Vanderbilt coach James Franklin moved up to fifth all-time in wins by a Vandy coach in his first two seasons. Franklin is 10-11 with the 'Dores and is one win away from tying the 11 wins posted by Red Sanders in the 1940-41 systems. Franklin was the first Commodore coach to lead the 'Dores to a bowl game in his initial season, with the AutoZone Liberty Bowl appearance. Vandy was also the SEC's most improved team on offense and defense in the Franklin's first season.

In his third season as head coach for the Wildcats, Joker Phillips has a young team that has played 26 freshmen, including 14 true freshmen. One of most telling signs for a Joker Phillips team is the turnover battle. Kentucky is 9-2 under Phillips in games that they win the turnover margin. Phillips has a 1-1 career record against the Commodores and won the last time the 'Dores played in Lexington 38-20.

PREDICTION: Vanderbilt 20, Kentucky 14.

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