Key No. 1 Ralph Webb has big game
Kentucky is 12th in the SEC in rushing defense, allowing almost 200 yards per game. The Commodores need to exploit that Wildcat weakness and get their 200 yards. Ralph Webb has turned it up a notch in 2016 and added another dimension to his game.. a flying running back dimension. His vaults over lines and opposing would-be-tacklers have been extraordinary and almost super-human. Vandy needs that kind of effort from him on Saturday, along with a dominating performance by the Commodore offensive line.
Key No. 2 Keep Stephen Johnson in check
Stephen Johnson II is one of those kinds of QBs that have given Vanderbilt trouble in the past. He is a dual threat quarterback who can throw on the run and has completed almost two-thirds of his passes. Kentucky hasn't run him much because of worries of losing another quarterback but against Vandy Mark Stoops and the Cats know that this is a must-win game. They are going to pull out every trick in the book to avoid the Commodores winning this game, even at the risk of losing a promising QB to injury. Johnson is the real deal and has a swagger about him. He played well against Alabama completing 13-of-22 passes but was sacked four times. If Vandy can keep him contained and put pressure on him to force errant throws, that could be a deciding factor in this game.
Key No. 3 Win the turnover battle
Kentucky is last place in the SEC in turnovers with twice as many turnovers as Auburn, the 13th worst team in turnovers. The Wildcats have lost eight fumbles and six interceptions this season. Yes, it sounds a lot like Vanderbilt in 2014. The Commodores need to get their share of turnovers in this game. Zach Cunningham, Oren Burks, and Adam Butler should be foaming at the mouth, ready to get after the UK offense. A bad day at the office with Vandy losing more turnovers than it gains could work right into the Wildcat's paws.
The all-time series between Vandy and Kentucky is tied at 42-42-4. The Wildcats lead in games played in Lexington 23-15-2. Vanderbilt won the first meeting between the two schools back in 1896, 6-0. Last season the Commodores held on to defeat UK 21-17. In that game, a trick pass play to Caleb Scott proved to be the difference in the game. Some recent memorable games include the 40-0 Vandy win back in 2012. In 2008 Vandy defeated UK 31-24 to become bowl eligible for the first time since 1982. D.J. Moore caught two touchdown passes and also intercepted two passes to end Vandy's bowl-less skid.