The School: The University of Kentucky
Record: 5-1 (3-1 in the SEC). With wins over ranked Mississippi State and ranked Florida and South Carolina and awwwwww crap, according to the transitive properly Vanderbilt’s already lost this game by 30.
Ranking: No. 14 in the AP Top 25 and No. 17 in the Coaches’ Poll. Kentucky is No. 22 in the S&P+ rankings, whereas Vandy slides in at a comfortable 81st, sandwiched between Western Michigan and Pitt. Don’t worry fellow middling programs, we’re blue collar just like you! Please pass the generic cheese crackers and fortified wine, my dudes! Am I saying that right? “Dudes?”
Mascot: The Wildcat. The producers of Speed needed Sandra Bullock to wear a Wildcat logo in order for Keanu Reeves to realize Dennis Hopper had cameras inside his rigged-to-explode city bus the whole time. They went with the University of Arizona and not UK, because they didn’t want audiences to be sympathetic to Hopper’s character for blowing up some Blue Blood trash.
Location: Lexington, KY. The city is just smaller Indianapolis with more horses, fewer malls, and the same amount of casual racism.
Coach: Mark Stoops. Not the one who got fired as Oklahoma’s defensive coordinator. Not the one with the national title. The one that’s been trying to use Kentucky as his stepping stone to a five-star job for the past six years.
Not well, mind you.
Conference: The SEC, where they brought home a 2011 co-ed rifle NCAA Championship. Take solace in the fact that banner will still be standing after the FBI exiles John Calipari to Lincoln University in 2021.
All-time vs. Vanderbilt: 44-42-4. Vandy had the chance to tie things up last year. And blew it. That means the only SEC team we’ve got a non-losing record against remains Auburn.
In the Last 10 Years vs. Vanderbilt: 5-5. A lot of people like to trash Joker Phillips, but he really did some great things reigniting this rivalry with his trash football teams.
The Last Time We Saw These Guys: Vandy came in favored, and then trailed 34-7 seven minutes into the third quarter. The good news is, only 15 of those 22 starters have returned for 2018, including the team’s two best players. Hooray?
Is Vandy Favored?: No. And bettors wised up after watching Vandy turn a 21-3 lead into a 37-27 loss last week. The Commodores are a well-deserved 11-point underdog.
Most Potent Offensive Threat: This is what I wrote last year. It all remains achingly true, especially the Elton John reference.
Benny Snell ran for 94 yards against the Commodores last season as a freshman, and that was on a day where Zach Cunningham made 10 tackles. Vanderbilt no longer has Zach Cunningham and is suddenly the FBS’s 115th-ranked rushing defense, so Benny’s probably gonna turn on
Snell ran for 116 yards and three touchdowns that day. Sometimes, you stretch so hard for a bad joke you end up being incredibly right.
Most Potent Defensive Threat: Again, from last year:
Josh Allen is the Wildcats’ leading pass rusher, having recorded 14 sacks in his last 22 games. Kentucky sacked Shurmur four times last fall working against a tougher Vandy O-line, with Allen picking up 1.5 of those. He might replace his eye black with Kyle Shurmur’s blood if the Commodores aren’t better Saturday.
Allen didn’t record a single tackle last year, quite possibly because he didn’t even need to try. But he’s a legit first round pick in 2019, which will give him the opportunity to prove not all college football players named “Josh Allen” are terrible pros.
Matchup to Watch: Kyle Shurmur vs. his own draft prospects. Shurmur looked like a sleeper pick when he nearly led Vandy to an upset over now No. 4 Notre Dame in South Bend. Since then he’s completed fewer than 55 percent of his passes and is averaging an interception per game. That is not what NFL teams are looking for, unless you’re a poorly constructed 6’5 football robot from Wyoming.
Interesting Fact: 2018 marks the first time Kentucky’s been ranked since 2007. That’s the year the Wildcats, somehow, beat the eventual national champion LSU. It was also the year Nick Saban and Alabama lost to Louisiana-Monroe.
If Kentucky wins, we: Hope Vandy gives Derek Mason a lame duck year in 2019, just so he can smash Todd Grantham’s face off of his face when he sees Florida next fall.