As usual, we here at A Sea of Blue will be taking a statistical look at the Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt game today.
I am a bit late to the party with this, but unfortunately, a combination of a busy week at work and a wild and wacky week on the blogs has put me a bit behind the eight ball. For those of you who missed this due to my late posting, I do apologize.
This is a huge football game for both teams. Vanderbilt needs one more win for bowl eligibility, and Kentucky needs one more to virtually guarantee a bowl of some kind and at least equal last year's record. Both goals are no doubt important to the Cats, and very much so to football fans of the Big Blue Nation.
Vanderbilt, like Kentucky, is not a game anyone can point to on their schedule as a win. Vandy has a very strong defense and some very capable offensive players in Earl Bennett and Casen Jackson-Garrison. This team is very much as dangerous as Mississippi State, who came in here and cleaned our clocks two weeks ago, and we have to play them in Nashville.
Even though Vanderbilt is a good team this year, they have had problems scoring and keeping the high-powered offenses of the SEC from putting up serious numbers against them. With Kentucky coming off a bye week and returning most of the team to health, the overall effect would seem to bode well for the Cats. But let's see what the statistics say.
Before I begin, you will notice that I have added three additional columns which basically take the differential of the differential. A positive number favors the Wildcats. Negative numbers favor the 'Dores.
|Statistic||UK||OPP||DIFF||VAN||OPP||DIFF||UK - VAN||OPP DIFF||DIFF DIFF|
|Pts / G||38.9||29||9.9||22.1||20.9||1.2||16.8||-8.1||8.7|
|Yds / G||450.1||383.1||67||318.7||322.9||-4.2||131.4||-60.2||71.2|
|Rushing Yds / G||176.2||192.7||-16.5||157.3||128.2||29.1||18.9||-64.5||-45.6|
|Passing Yds / G||273.9||190.4||83.5||161.3||194.7||-33.4||112.6||4.3||116.9|
|Yds / Play||6||5.3||0.7||4.8||5.1||-0.3||1.2||-0.2||1|
|Rushing Yds / Car||4.7||4.6||0.1||3.9||3.8||0.1||0.8||-0.8||0|
|Passing Yds / Att||7.1||6.1||1||6.1||6.6||-0.5||1||0.5||1.5|
|Passing Yds / Cmp||11.3||11.1||0.1||11.4||11.7||-0.2||-0.1||0.6||0.3|
|Passing Cmp %||63.5||55||8.5||53.6||56.8||-3.2||9.9||1.8||11.7|
|Punt Return Avg||8.5||4.7||3.8||9.4||15.5||-6.1||-0.9||10.8||9.9|
|Yds / 7 Pts||81||92.5||11.5||100.9||108.2||7.3||19.9||-15.7||4.2|
|Plays / 7 Pts||13.6||17.6||4||21.1||21.1||0||7.5||-3.5||4|
|Rushing Play %||49.3||57.3||-8.1||60.6||53.5||7||-11.3||-3.8||-15.1|
|Passing Play %||50.7||42.7||8.1||39.4||46.5||-7||11.3||3.8||15.1|
|Turnovers / G||2.1||1.9||-0.2||2.1||2||-0.1||0||-0.1||-0.1|
|Fumbles / G||1.2||0.8||-0.4||1||0.3||-0.7||-0.2||0.5||0.3|
|Intercept / G||0.9||1.1||0.2||1.1||1.7||0.6||0.2||-0.6||-0.4|
As you can see, Kentucky is the superior offensive team, but not quite as overwhelmingly as we might hope. Overall, we put up more points and more overall yards per game, as well as a huge difference passing the ball. Vanderbilt, on the other hand, nets out more yards rushing than Kentucky does, but we get more yards over the ground than Vanderbilt.
Notice in particular the passing statistic. Vanderbilt is averaging only 161 yards through the air, despite having the best statistical receiver in the league. That is because of two big reasons -- one, Earl Bennett has very little help and two, Vanderbilt has had one heck of a time with quarterbacks. Mackenzie Adams has proved to be the more steady and effective throwing the football, but he is only a sophomore. Bobby Johnson hasn't given up on Chris Nickson, and will shuttle him in and out in certain situations. Overall, it is a very unsettled position, and that works against the 'Dores.
Vanderbilt has a superior defense, as you can see by all the green in the opponent's statistics above. Their defense against the rush is what gives them an overall advantage in the ground game, but they are alarmingly anemic (or at least, no better than Kentucky) against the pass. Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin disassembled the Vandy secondary to the subatomic level last weekend, and that would seem to play right to Kentucky's biggest strength. If Woodson & Co. are sharp today, Vandy will be in big trouble.
Kentucky must be especially aware of D.J. Moore, however, as he is 7th in the nation in interceptions, and if Woodson throws the ball willy-nilly into the secondary like he did against MSU, this game could get ugly turnover-wise for the Cats.
Vandy returns punts better than Kentucky, but Kentucky covers punts better. When it comes to kickoff returns, the Commodores are excellent, 11th in the nation and averaging over 25 yards per return. The aforementioned D.J. Moore is especially dangerous in both categories. Kentucky must be very careful with him.
Intangibles and Injuries
The intangibles are about even. Vanderbilt gets the home-field advantage, but Kentucky is coming off a bye week and is as healed up as they are ever likely to be.
Kentucky is favored by 3-1/2 points, but this is a dangerous game for the Wildcats. Vanderbilt is very capable, and if the Cats come out flat off the layoff, we could lose this game.
With that said, the Wildcats are healthy, rested, and if they aren't hungry after what happened two weeks ago, I have no hopes for the rest of the season.
My prediction: Kentucky, 35, Vanderbilt 21.