The School: The University of Kentucky
Record: 4-5 (2-5 in the SEC).
Ranking: Unranked in the AP Top 25 and Coaches' Poll. The formulas have Kentucky rated 79th in the Real Time RPI. They are ranked 80th in Warren Nolan's power rankings (Vandy is #96).
Mascot: The Wildcats. In the hit 1994 film Speed, Keanu Reeves figures out that Dennis Hopper is watching his doomed bus through surveillance cameras when a University of Arizona sweatshirt causes him to call Sandra Bullock "Wildcat." If she had been wearing a Big Blue Nation hoodie, there would have been no survivors.
Location: Lexington, KY. I quickly found in graduate school that a great excuse for not going to someone's party or recital or dissertation or whatever was to tell them that I was going to be in Lexington that weekend. No one ever asked a followup question after that, because no one actually knows anything about Lexington.
Coach: Mark Stoops (11-22 at Kentucky). He recruits like Bob Stoops, but coaches like Stoop Kid.
Conference: The ESS-EEE-CEE.
All-time vs. Vanderbilt: 42-41-4.
In the Last 10 Years vs. Vanderbilt: 6-4. That record doesn't accurately reflect just how impressively James Franklin wrecked the Wildcats in his three years in Nashville. Vanderbilt won those games by an aggregate score of 100-14. Zac Stacy did this:
He never even went down! If not for the end zone, he may still be rumbling towards the coast this day, the husks of emaciated Kentucky defenders limply hanging from the cooling tower he calls a neck.
The Last Time We Saw These Guys: Wade Freebeck started his first game as an NCAA athlete. It went...poorly:
Is Vandy Favored?: No. Wait, I mean yes! Vanderbilt is a 3.5 point favorite over an SEC team for the first time in the Derek Mason era. YOU GUYS! The Commodores are finally getting their reward for gaining 31 passing yards last week.
Most Potent Offensive Threat: Stanley "Boom" Williams missed most of the Wildcats' last two games after suffering an elbow injury against Tennessee, but he's since been cleared to take on the Commodores. The Wildcats scored just 10 points in the 6.5 quarters he missed, so his return will probably bump the final score up from 9-3 to 9-6.
Most Potent Defensive Threat: All-SEC linebacker Josh Forrest does just about everything for the Wildcats. He's leading the team in tackles, tackles for loss, and sacks. He's also got an interception, a forced fumble, and 14 passes either broken up or defensed this fall. The official University of Kentucky website also lists one of his career highlights as "Had a 29-yard interception return for the go-ahead touchdown in the come-from-behind win over ULM." The last seven words of that sentence probably doesn't get Wildcat fans super excited.
Matchup to Watch: The movable object vs. the slow-moving, easily-sidetracked force. Kentucky has given up nearly 38 points per game in their recent four-game losing streak. Vanderbilt has scored 27 points - total - over that span. One of these teams is going to get a stat-enhancing performance on Saturday. The other will dissolve into the ether and be remembered fondly alongside Kansas and Central Florida in regrettable sports bar conversations.
Interesting Fact: Type "Lexington, KY" into YouTube and you'll only have to scroll past 7 videos before you get to this:
That's like the 1,312th most interesting video of Tommy Lee on the internet, but somehow it snuck into Lexington's top 10.
Bonus Fact!: Lexington is home to the corporate headquarters of Fazoli's, the restaurant you go to when you really want canned spaghetti, but don't feel like putting on your good Applebee's sweatpants.
If Kentucky wins, we: cancel our postseason plans. Believe it or not, a five-win Vanderbilt team still has a pretty decent shot to make it to a bowl game. That means they'd have to beat two of the following three teams: Kentucky, Texas A&M, and Tennessee. So yeah...beat the Wildcats.