Kentucky Wildcats Football: Taking a look at Vanderbilt

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

A funny thing happened on the way to the forum a 2-10 season last year. As Kentucky slid from 6-7, 5-7 to a 2-10 record, Vanderbilt hired James Franklin as head coach in 2011. He’s now in his third year and Vanderbilt matters. 2010 was the last time Kentucky beat the Commodores (38-20).

While Kentucky's ship beginning to sink, James Franklin has taken the Vanderbilt submarine to the surface. He's torpedoed the Cats the last two years 38-8 and 40-0. The latter score forced Mitch Barnhart to put an end to Joker Phillips' residency as UK's head coach after the game.

Franklin has had a 6-7 and a 9-4 record the last two years and Vandy has a 5-4 record as Kentucky heads to Nashville. So how did Franklin turn it around at Vanderbilt? Recruiting and good coaching.

Here's Vandy's recruiting rankings at Rivals:

2002 - #74 - 22 signed (2.14)

2003 - #78 - 22 signed (2.23)

2004 - #132 - 20 signed (2.10)

2005 - #87 - 24 signed (2.08)

2006 - #62 - 25 signed (2.24)

2007 - #67 - 14 signed (2.5)

2008 - #90 - 21 signed (2.19)

2009 - #71 - 18 signed (2.72)

2010 - #61 - 24 signed (2.79)

2011 - #70 - 21 signed (2.71)

2012 - #29 - 22 signed (3.14)

2013 - #19 - 26 signed (3.15)

2014 - #21 20 Commitments (3.26)

The 2012 and 2013 Vanderbilt recruiting classes were ranked better than Kentucky's for the first time since Rivals began their rankings in 2002.

James Franklin and Mark Stoops are building their programs incrementally. Franklin has a two year head start. His signature win came with the victory over Florida on the road last week, but he has also won against Georgia at home this year. Beating Kentucky will make them bowl eligible. After Kentucky, Vandy plays Tennessee in Knoxville and Wake Forest at home.

Here's the matchups, including the NCAA rank:

Kentucky - Vanderbilt

Rushing Offense: 159.1 (75) - 139.8 (94)

Passing Offense: 199.8 (91) - 237.9 (60)

Passing Efficiency: 130.13 (67) - 136.04 (54)

Yards per Completion: 11.60 (81) - 12.82 (40)

Red Zone Offense: 82.8% (66) - 90.0% (17)

Scoring Offense: 23.2 (93) - 32.3 (46)

Total Offense: 358.9 (99) - 377.7 (88)

Tackles for Loss Allowed: 6.56 (92) - 6.00 (65)

Sacks Allowed: 3.00 (107) - 3.11 (113)

Time of possession: 28 (102) - 30 (51)

3rd Down Conv. %: 29.3% (117) - 37.3% (83)

4th Down Conv. %: 69.6% (7) - 73.7% (5)

First Downs: 162 (109) - 179 (92)

Defense

Rushing Defense: 200.4 (100) - 148.8 (44)

Passing Defense: 221.1 (42) - 236.0 (78)

Scoring Defense: 29.6 (80) - 28.8 (77)

Passing Efficiency Defense: 149.33 (102) - 133.72 (82)

Passes Intercepted: 1 (123) - 8 (76)

Tackles for Loss: 4.4 (114) - 6.4 (39)

Sacks: 2.00 (57) - 2.22 (44)

Red Zone Defense: 83.3% (59) - 91.4% (112)

Total Defense: 421.6 (85) - 384.8 (54)

3rd Down Conv. %: 45.5% (103) - 41.3% (80)

4th Down Conversion %: 66.7% (103) - 70.3% (112)

First Downs: 184 (49) - 198 (73)

Turnover Margin: +0.4 (39) - +0.4 (39)

Net Punting: 35.82 (89) - 38.15 (37)

Punt Returns: 6.74 (85) - 3.38 (115)

Punt Return Defense: 7.44 (55) - 8.00 (65)

Kickoff Returns: 22.85 (40) - 18.29 (112)

Kickoff Return Defense: 19.21 (32) - 15.25 (1)

Fewest Penalties per game: 5.44 (56) - 4.89 (34)

Penalty Yards per game: 46.44 (56) - 38.89 (23)

I'm not going to go out on a limb and say this one is winnable because it is in Nashville. Kentucky just hasn't shown they can play well with any consistency. This is a big game for Vanderbilt because they want that 6th win. The stats say we are not going to win, but we've overcome not so good comparisons before. While I think the Commodores will win, there is always the possibility of a shocker. I am willing to bet that we don't lose 48-0 this time around. I think this will be a good game to watch, much like the Mississippi State game.

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