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Vanderbilt swung the Vandy/Kentucky rivalry back in their favor behind James Franklin. Now the Wildcats have a hotshot, high-recruiting coach of their own in Mark Stoops. Stoops wants to extend UK's lead in the all-time series record, but Franklin will have other ideas when the teams meet in Nashville.
Mascot: The Wildcats. But totally different from Northwestern's or Arizona's or Kansas State's or Davidson's Wildcat, though.
Location: Lexington, Kentucky. The Horse Capital of the World. Sadly, the city's Urban County Council is made up of humans and not run by equines.
Conference: The ESS-EEE-CEE. Formerly the Southern Conference.
All-time vs. Vanderbilt: 41-40-4. That's right - a win on Saturday evens this series up for the Commodores. These two teams have been playing against each other since 1896, when football was better known as "Bert-bert."
In the Last 10 Years vs. Vanderbilt: 4-6. Vanderbilt has won two in a row under James Franklin by a total score of 78-8, but Kentucky had won six of seven before that.
The Last Time We Saw These Guys: Vanderbilt got one of the biggest conference wins - in terms of scoring margin - in school history with a 40-0 stomping of the Wildcats in Kentucky. However, let's take a look back at 2011 instead:
Jerron Seymour, kindly examine the gold standard of rushing performances against UK above.
Most Potent Offensive Threat: Jojo Kemp, running back. Kemp is a true freshman, so he doesn't have any of the stink of Kentucky's last two losses following him to Nashville. The former four-star recruit is a slashing runner who can make defenders miss and finish off runs to earn first downs and extend drives when called upon. He hasn't had more than 15 carries in a single game this season, but he's averaging over five yards per touch and could be the kind of runner that Vanderbilt struggles to contain at the line of scrimmage.
Most Potent Defensive Threat: Alvin Dupree. The former hybrid linebacker is back at defensive end, and he's been Kentucky's most consistent defender in 2013. He's got 5.5 sacks and two forced fumbles already after recording 12.5 tackles for loss in 2012. Along with Za'Darius Smith (5.5 sacks), he gives the Wildcats two potent bookends along the defensive line.
Vanderbilt did a good job of turning Florida's defensive ends away last weekend. The 'Dores used solid blocking and conservative playcalling to keep Patton Robinette upright in a hostile environment. They should have a bit more breathing room in Nashville on Saturday, but Dupree could definitely make things difficult for this team in the trenches.
Matchup to Watch: Patton Robinette vs. the Kentucky secondary. One week after throwing two interceptions in a blowout loss against Texas A&M, Robinette was able to take his foot off the gas in a Florida game in which Vanderbilt never trailed. The redshirt freshman threw just 12 passes last week, so expect the coaching staff to give him the green light to pass more, especially if Jonathan Krause takes the field after missing last week's contest.
That will put pressure on a Kentucky defense that has been good, but not great, against the pass this season. The Wildcats are giving up 221 passing yards per game this season, and while they held players like Maty Mauk and Tyler Murphy in check, they also allowed big games to Western Kentucky's Brandon Doughty and Mississippi State's Dak Prescott. Robinette will have some options downfield, but he'll have to prove that he's a capable presence behind center in order to capitalize on them this Saturday.
Interesting Fact: With eight four-star recruits, Kentucky currently has the 8th ranked recruiting class in the nation, according to Rivals. Either John Calipari is offering classes on luring high school students to Lexington, or Mark Stoops probably isn't getting paid enough.
If Kentucky wins, we: fume. A big part of James Franklin's Brand New Vandy has been big wins over Kentucky and a general current of momentum that carries them through November (not "Dorevember". That's especially lazy copy writing, Athletics Department). That all may change in the coming years thanks to Mark Stoops's recruits, but the Wildcats are still struggling to get wins in 2013. Vanderbilt is the better team and will be playing in front of a home crowd. Commodore fans are predicting a win, and if Franklin wants to build a culture that expects success, he'd better not give fans that have been hurt before a reason to look away.
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