For the first time since 2010, Vanderbilt is 2-7 after nine games. Like 2010, the seventh loss was a blowout loss to Florida — and like 2010, Vanderbilt follows that up with a Kentucky team fighting for bowl eligibility.
The Wildcats are 4-5 and haven’t had an actual quarterback take a snap for them since September 28. Terry Wilson played in two games before being lost for the season with an injury; then, backup Sawyer Smith started three games — all losses — and then he got injured, too. Since then, Kentucky’s gone with ostensible wide receiver Lynn Bowden as its quarterback.
This has gone better than expected, but only because you expected this to go very badly. Kentucky scored enough to beat a bad Arkansas team, and was in the right place when Missouri decided that losing to Vanderbilt wasn’t bad enough. (It is our belief that Barry Odom is the first SEC head coach since Tennessee’s Doug Dickey in 1964 to lose to Vanderbilt and Kentucky in consecutive games. Also, like Doug Dickey, Barry Odom somehow kept his job after that.)
Riley Neal is expected to be back for Vanderbilt this week, upgrading that position from disastrous to merely bad. Will that be enough? Let’s ask the writers.
There are times when I certainly wonder why I do this, and mentally preparing myself to watch Vanderbilt, which has scored zero points in its last seven quarters, do battle with Kentucky, which is currently playing a wide receiver at quarterback, is one of those times.
This is going to be an objectively bad football game. Neither Vanderbilt nor Kentucky has anything resembling a functional offense at this point, which means that the first team to 14 will probably win. (Note to anybody placing a wager: bet the under.) Of the two, Kentucky has a somewhat better defense, which makes a difference in this game. Neither team will be able to string together drives, but somebody’s going to miss a tackle and give up a touchdown in the process. I mean, if you told me this was 0-0 at the end of regulation, I would probably believe you.
The Pick: Kentucky 14, Vanderbilt 10.
The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: When I see AUBURN (+3) as an underdog against Georgia at home, I just know that something stupid is about to happen, and it’s going to end with Auburn winning and screwing up the SEC East.
Andrew VU ‘04
As I said in the mail bag:
Kentucky currently does not have a quarterback, though, and we’re getting one back. We could win this game, and it could very well be low scoring. Cripple fight’s gonna cripple fight.
This game is going to suck. Perhaps not more than last week’s Jortsville curb-stomping, but at least I could imagine someone somewhere watching it and feeling joy. No Vandy alum, of course, but someone.
This one? No. Kentucky wins in a squeaker and Stoops takes a higher profile job before the bottom completely drops out in Lexington.
Oh, and if despite all this, you still decide to travel to this game, wear purple. It’s aces.
The Pick: Kentucky 16, Vanderbilt 6.
The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: Last week, I picked two SEC upsets (correctly, I might add). This week, there is likely to be no upsets. In fact there are really only two candidates—Vanderbilt and Auburn. Though it is always wise to heed the wisdom of Early Cuyler and T-Pain, Auburn is the only team that even has a shot of pulling an upset this week. Give me the War Tigers on the Plains (+3) over the Dog Balls Resting Gently On a Tray of Ice.
This game is going to depend on the defense. If the same unit that showed up against either Missouri (and SC to a lesser extent) OR from the first half against Florida, we have a chance. Those were two very different performances by the way. The Commodore defense dominated Missouri’s OL and was plastered to WRs in coverage. Against Florida, they bent but did not break and took advantage of some opportunities to get off the field with big plays. Stuffing Kentucky’s option-based attack could happen, or they may end up letting the Wildcats move down the field then force some turnovers and/or get stops just outside of scoring range.
Who would have thought that Riley Neal coming back would be big for the offense? Sure, it is just an improvement from terrible to probably just below average. If anything decent shows up on defense, “just below average” might actually be enough to win this game. Of course, the option attack could run all over us like Ole Miss did. Whatever I predict will be wrong. If my final thought is that we get run over, it is likely close. If I settle on a defensive struggle, our defense will struggle to stop them. So I am going full Sunshine Pump on this one because my opinion does not matter.
The Pick: Kentucky 17, Vanderbilt 21.
The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: Auburn is #12 in the CFP committee’s rankings and are sitting there quietly. It’s time for something bizarre to happen. Also, it is an odd year. Buckle up. It’s only 3 points, but the Tigers are going to pull the upset in Jordan-Hare.
Even if Vandy’s defense shows up, I don’t think the offense does enough to win. Not saying they have quit, but Neal isn’t the answer, and Vaughn seems like the only one who is being utilized to his potential.
FWIW, Kentucky has a mid 30’s class again for like 5th out of the last six years. That’s the standard up there. Under Stoops, they hover around .500. He doesn’t get a lot of pressure to win big, and 10 wins last year has him with good will. He produces solid defenses and leverages their best athletes on offense. Riddle me this? Would he and/or Vanderbilt be better off with him?
The Pick: Kentucky 27, Vanderbilt 14
The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: Missouri in a sleepy nooner (11:00CST) over the ready to be exposed Dan Mullens.