Kentucky had its best opportunity to end a nearly two-year Southeastern Conference losing skid on…
Saturday, 12:20 p.m. ET
Vanderbilt Stadium (40,550) Nashville, Tenn.
TV: SEC Network
Record: 2-7, 0-5 Southeastern Conference
Ranking: Not ranked
Last game: L, 48-17 vs. No. 9 Missouri (H)
Coach: Mark Stoops (Iowa, 1989)
Record: 2-7 (First season)
at UK: 2-7 (First season)
vs. VU: 0-0
Record: 5-4, 2-4 Southeastern Conference
Ranking: Not ranked
Last game: W, 34-17 at Florida (A)
Coach: James Franklin (East Stroudsburg, 1995)
Record: 20-15 (Third Year)
at VU: 20-15 (Third Year)
vs. UK: 2-0
Overall: Kentucky leads series 41-40-4
in Nashville: Vanderbilt leads series 25-19-2
WILDCAT KEYS TO THE GAME:
When Kentucky has the ball… The Wildcats need a strong showing in the run game in order to control the ball and keep Vandy's potent offense (32.1 ppg) off the field as much as possible. That likely means a steady diet of running backs Raymond Sanders and JoJo Kemp, as well as designed runs for quarterback Jalen Whitlow and the quick passing game. That gameplan may not sound (or look) pretty, but it's probably UK's best shot to leave Nashville with a W. If the Cats can string together long drives and cap them with touchdowns, they'll have a fighting chance to hang around, but they can't afford the stalled drives and wave of punts that haunted them last week against Missouri. Vandy is coming off an eye-popping 34-17 win last week at Florida, the Dores' first win in Gainesville since 1945, but opponents are scoring 30.2 points per game against James Franklin's defense. By contrast, the Cats are giving up 29.6 points per game, so this isn't a stellar defensive unit in black and gold.
When Vandy has the ball… The Commodores are balanced on offense, averaging 141.5 yards on the ground and 260.5 yards through the air, so UK won't be able to key on any one particular look. Senior quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels has not played in the last two games due to injury, but he had 1,672 yards and 10 touchdowns prior to getting dinged up. Backup Patton Robinette, a freshman, has not been as dangerous with only one touchdown and three interceptions. Senior wideout Jordan Matthews is the big-play man for the Dores, bringing 66 receptions for 890 yards and five touchdowns into the game. At 6-foot-3 and 206 pounds, he'll be a tough cover for the smaller UK defensive backs, perhaps similar to what they saw last week against Missouri. The Cats have to be much better at playing the ball in this one.
• Senior running back Raymond Sanders has 1,482 career rushing yards and needs just 2 more to tie Mike Fanuzzi for 17th on UK's career rushing list.
• Junior defensive ends Za'Darius Smith and Alvin "Bud" Dupree have 5.5 sacks this season and need just 3.5 more to tie for the fourth most sacks in a season in school history (Jeremy Jarmon 9 in 2007, Oliver Barnett 9 in 1988). Dupree needs just 2.5 more to tie for fourth on UK's career list.
ON THIS DAY IN UK HISTORY:
Saturday marks the 15th time in school history that the Wildcats have played a game on Nov. 16. Kentucky holds an all-time record of 8-6 on this date. The Wildcats' first game on this date was a 5-0 loss to Central University in 1901. UK's last game on this date was a 41-21 win over Vanderbilt in Lexington in 2002. Artose Pinner ran for three touchdowns, Derek Abney returned a kick 95 yards for a score, and Otis Grigsby recovered a fumble by future Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler for the Wildcats' final score on the day.
• Kentucky has won eight of the last 12 meetings with Vanderbilt, but the Commodores have won the last two by a combined score of 78-8. Over 40 percent of the games played in the series have been decided by seven points or less.
• Vanderbilt has two players on its 2013 roster from the Commonwealth of Kentucky in freshman kicker David Holtgrave (Louisville, Ky.) and freshman defensive back Ryan White (Louisville, Ky.) White was a teammate of UK's Jason Hatcher last year at Trinity High School.
• The UK offense ranks third in the SEC and seventh nationally in fourth-down conversion percentage at 69.6%.
• The Wildcats have only seven turnovers this season, which ranks second-lowest in the nation. UK has lost five fumbles and tossed only two interceptions.
• Kentucky has made 10 plays of 40 yards or longer this season after recording only four in 2012.