HEAD TO HEAD: VANDERBILT VS. KENTUCKY

Vanderbilt hosts Kentucky on Saturday. VandyMania.com's D.T. Yates compares the two teams in several critical areas. We also make a prediction on the game's final score.

Vanderbilt PASSING OFFENSE
VS.
Kentucky PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: VANDERBILT
REMARKS: The Commodores completed just six passes in their victory over the Gators last week and suited up just four wide receivers with an injury to No. 2 receiver Jonathan Krause. Senior receiver Jordan Matthews claimed the All-Time SEC receiving yards record earlier in the season and demands attention from opposing defenses. Redshirt freshman Patton Robinette is the first Commodore in Vanderbilt history to lead the 'Dores to victory against Georgia and Florida in the same season. The freshman got his first career start at Texas A&M. The week before Robinette led the 'Dores to a come from behind victory over Georgia. Redshirt senior quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels went down in the Georgia game and has not seen time since. The coaches are tight lipped regarding injuries but there's a possibility he hasn't seen his last snap as a Commodore.

The Kentucky passing defense is ranked 7th in the conference with opponents averaging 221.1 yards per game. The Wildcats rank last in the conference with opponents averaging 8.1 yards per pass completion. Junior safety Eric Dixon leads the Kentucky secondary with 44 tackles and a forced fumble. Junior Ashely Lowery has tallied 30 tackles, including three passes defended, and a forced fumble. The Wildcat defensive back unit held Florida to just 156 passing yards. Junior cornerback Nate Willis led the Wildcats with seven tackles, including two for a loss. Sophomore cornerback Fred Tiller started his first game in the opener against Western Kentucky tallying seven tackles and adding a fumble recovery. Willis had nine tackles in the Wildcats 22-28 loss to Mississippi State.

VANDERBILT RUSHING OFFENSE
VS.
KENTUCKY RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: EVEN
REMARKS: A consistent theme for Vanderbilt over the last three years is that the running game has steadily improved with a spike following the bye week. Offensive line coach Herb Hand seems to work wonders during the open week. Running back Jerron Seymour is patient with the ability to make people miss and the power to break tackles. The redshirt sophomore leads the 'Dores with 541 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns. Running back Brian Kimbrow has seen an uptick and carries and production between the tackles. The sophomore averages 4.5 yards per carry with one touchdown this season. Senior Wesley Tate did not see action at Florida last week but recovered an onside kick attempt by the Gators.

The Wildcat rushing defense ranks 12th in the SEC with opponents averaging 200.4 yards rushing per game and 5.0 yards per carry against them. Middle linebacker Avery Williamson leads the Kentucky defense with 82 tackles, including 1½ for a loss, three quarterback hurries, and two fumble recoveries. Junior outside linebacker TraVaughn Paschal is fourth on the team with 39 tackles, including four for a loss, one sack, and a forced fumble. Sophomore outside linebacker Josh Forrest returned an interception for 39 yards against the Gators. Junior defensive end Alvin Dupree has been a monster for the Cats, leading the defensive line with 47 tackles, including a team high 7½ for a loss, with 5½ sacks, and two forced fumbles. Junior defensive end Za'Darius Smith who is tied with Dupree for first on the team with 5½ sacks.

KENTUCKY PASSING OFFENSE
VS.
VANDERBILT PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: VANDERBILT
REMARKS: The Wildcats recently lost true freshman Alexander Montgomery who was the third-leading receiver on the team to season ending ACL injury celebrating his touchdown reception against Alabama State. True freshman and second leading receiver Ryan Timmons suffered an ankle sprain against Alabama State and did not catch a pass against Missouri. Sophomore Jalen Whitlow is a dual threat quarterback who can make the Commodores pay with his legs. Whitlow has completed 84 for 130 completions for 915 yards passing and five touchdowns with only one interception. Junior Javess Blue is the leading Kentucky receiver with 31 receptions for 407 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Junior Demarco Robinson moved up to third on the team with 16 receptions for 164 yards receiving and two scores.

The 'Dores secondary has been one of its strongest qualities over the last three seasons. Last week against Florida had three interceptions, each returned for 20 yards or more. Vanderbilt has a total of eight interceptions this season, three of which by free safety Kenny Ladler who also added an interception against the Gators. Ladler has forced two fumbles and has a pair of interceptions in the last two games. Strong safety Javon Marshall led the team with eight tackles and a 13-yard sack. Cornerback Andre Hal nabbed his first interception of the season against the Gators. The senior leads the 'Dores with 12 passes defended, adding 34 tackles, including 3½ for a loss. Opposite Hal is senior Steven Clarke who had a fumble recovery in four turnover feast in the Swamp. Clarke sits tied for fifth on the team with 34 tackles, an interception, and five passes defended.

KENTUCKY RUSHING OFFENSE
VS.
VANDERBILT RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: EVEN
REMARKS: Kentucky's rushing offense averages 4.4 yards per carry and 159.1 yards rushing per game, ranking 12th in the SEC. Senior running back Raymond Sanders is second on the team in rushing with 404 yards rushing on 92 carries and three touchdowns. True freshman running back JoJo Kemp leads the Wildcats with 80 carries for 435 yards rushing with two touchdowns. Kentucky quarterback Jalen Whitlow is following shortly behind with 87 carries for 395 yards rushing with a team high six rushing touchdowns. Whitlow does not make many mistakes and is exactly the type of quarterback the 'Dores have had trouble against in recent contests.

Vanderbilt sophomore Caleb Azubike earned SEC Defensive Lineman of Week for his four tackle, two sack, and two quarterback hurry performance against Florida. Azubike leads the team with 10 tackles for a loss. The Commodores were excellent in holding the Gators to 39 rushing yards. Defensive end Kyle Woestmann has also been a disruptive force for opposing offenses, leading Vanderbilt with 5½ sacks, and topping the defensive line with 32 tackles, including 6½ for a loss. The linebacking unit got a nice boost with the return of middle linebacker Chase Garnham last week. For the first time in weeks Garnham is listed as first on the depth chart ahead of sophomore Jake Sealand. Sophomore outside linebacker Darreon Herring leads the linebacker group with 64 tackles, a sack, an interception, and 11 passes defended.

SPECIAL TEAMS
EDGE: KENTUCKY
REMARKS: Senior place kicker Carey Spear nailed a pair of 31-yard field goals against the Gators last week. Spear has made eight of ten field goal attempts, including two of 50 yards or more this season. Punting for the 'Dores is redshirt sophomore Taylor Hudson who averages 43.3 yards per punt, with a season long of 75 yards. Hudson has boomed 10 punts of 50 yards or more and pinned opponents inside their 20-yard line eight times this season. True freshman Darrius Sims is listed as the No. 1 kick returner for the contest against the Wildcats. Sims has been the most exciting returner to watch for Vanderbilt, averaging a team high 22.2 yards per kick return. Vanderbilt is trying to get something going in the punt return game after returning 16 punts for an average of 3.4 yards per carry. The Commodores recently made a change to have Jordan Matthews fielding punts. The senior receiver has yet to return a punt this season.

Senior Kentucky place kicker Joe Mansour has been excellent this season hitting 11 for 12 field goal attempts with a season long of 45 yards. Sophomore Kentucky punter Landon Foster is tenth in the conference, averaging 41.6 yards per punt. Foster has five punts of 50 yards or more and has pinned opponents inside their 20-yard line eight times in 50 punts. Junior receiver Javess Blue averages 22.9 yards per kick return and leads the Wildcats with a season long return of 43 yards. Junior receiver Demarco Robinson will also see time returning kicks and leads Kentucky averaging 25.6 yards per kickoff return. Robinson is also a dangerous returning punts averaging 11.7 yards per punt return, with a season long of 33 yards. The 'Dores will need to be wary of sophomore linebacker Josh Forrest who blocked a punt for the Wildcats against Alabama State, giving him two on the season..

INTANGIBLES
EDGE: VANDERBILT
REMARKS: Vanderbilt was able to use excellent field position and four turnovers to their advantage against the Gators. After an upswing in positive turnovers, the 'Dores rank third in the SEC and tied for 39th in the country with a positive 0.56 (+5) turnover margin. The Wildcats are slightly trailing the 'Dores at fourth in the conference with a positive 0.44 (+4) turnover margin.

The 'Dores have continued to be dominant in the red zone scoring 30 touchdowns in 40 visits to the red zone. Vanderbilt leads the SEC scoring in 90 percent of trips to the red zone this season. The Commodores are second in the SEC in fourth-down conversion percentage behind only Missouri. Vanderbilt has converted 73.7 percent of fourth-down conversion attempts this season. Kentucky is tied for first in the conference in attempted fourth-down conversion attempts (23), and is slightly trailing the 'Dores at third in the conference converting 69.6 percent of attempts. Vanderbilt and Kentucky are tied for 10th in the conference with opponents converting 66.7 percent of fourth-down conversion attempts.

COACHING
EDGE: VANDERBILT
REMARKS: Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin is just one win away from clinching bowl eligibility for the third straight season, for the first time in Vanderbilt history. For Franklin, it's the only opponent on the schedule. The Commodore team has bought into his, "One game at a time." mantra. Its been paying off for him and the Vanderbilt faithful as the 'Dores have continued to set records and reach new heights in the SEC era. When or if the Commodores will reach their peak is yet to be seen.

Previously the defensive coordinator for Florida State, Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops has made an immediate impact on Wildcat football with major improvements in recruiting and by hiring an accomplished staff to help coach up his new players. Kentucky had a record attendance of 50,831 for their spring game and the Wildcats hauled in their best recruiting classes ever. With seven losses and bowl eligibility out of reach, an upset in the next three contests at Vanderbilt, Georgia, or against Tennessee at home would be a major lift for the 2-7 Wildcats.

PREDICTION: Vanderbilt 35, Kentucky 17

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