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Vanderbilt at Kentucky: Open Game Thread

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This is the official open game thread for the Vanderbilt Commodores versus the Kentucky Wildcats at Commonwealth Stadium tonight at 8:00 pm EST. As usual, I will be opening the thread a bit early for some vitual tailgating.

This is a huge game for both teams, and the implications of it cannot be minimized. In Kentucky's case, a win against the 'Dores would match last season's regular season win total with one game to go in a rebuilding year, and impressive feat that will surely get Kentucky invited to a somewhat more prestigious bowl than last year, primarily due to the relative dearth of bowl-eligible teams above us. Ole Miss just got their sixth win today, and although they go to Death Valley next week, they get Mississippi State at home for a shot at #7.

Should the 'Cats win tonight, they not only get the pleasure of denying Vandy a shot at a bowl unless they beat Tennessee or Wake Forest in the final two games of the season, but it gives the 'Cats a real shot at eight wins in Knoxville two weeks from now. I truly dislike Vandy at this particular moment in time, and a victory against them would go a long way toward improving my mood, which was spoiled by last night's basketball game.

Five things Kentucky must do to win:

  1. Get back to basics on defense -- Mobile quarterbacks like Chris Nickson have given UK fits in the past. The 'Cats must find a way to contain him.
  2. Move the football -- Vandy has no shot at beating UK if the 'Cats score 38 points, so another sterling performance by Randall Cobb and his Pony Show could make up for a lot of other problems.
  3. Avoid turnovers -- UK has done a good job, for the most part, of getting the turnover advantage, or at least minimizing their damage. That trend needs to continue
  4. Be special on special teams -- Special teams almost beat Georgia last week. If they play as well today, it will be a huge plus.
  5. Tap into the crowd's emotion -- This is Senior Day at Kentucky, and that's always emotional. The team needs to tap into that emotion and draw strength from it.

Five things Kentucky can do to lose:

  1. Let Vandy move the football -- Vanderbilt has been awesome in the red zone, second only to Florida. Playing "bend but don't break" will not likely work against them. We need to get 3 and outs.
  2. Give Vandy short fields -- If Kentucky doesn't keep the Commodores in a hole, it could be a long night for the Wildcats.
  3. Give up big plays -- Kentucky has had a penchant for giving up big plays during SEC play. They can't afford that tonight.
  4. Let Nickson run amok -- One way to handle guys like Nickson is not to over-rush. The defensive line needs to contain him, and sending lots of blitzes is not going to work. Nickson is averaging under five yards per completion, and we need to trust our secondary and contain his running.
  5. Allow Sean Walker to have a big day -- If UK can take Walker away, it will really help their cause. Let him get going, and it will be a long night.

This is a big game, so get yourself ready. We must win this game.

Go, 'Cats!