This is the official A Sea of Blue Open Game Thread for the Kentucky Wildcats @ Vanderbilt Commodores football game. This thread will also serve as the pre-game, since neither Ken nor I have had the chance to do a separate one.
Game particulars are as follows, courtesy of UKAthletics.com:
It goes without saying that any game where bowl eligibility is on the line is a big game for Kentucky, and this is such a game. Without the unfortunate home loss to Mississippi St., Kentucky would be looking at this game being the icing on an improved season over last year. Now, this is a pivotal contest upon which the football Wildcats' post-season hopes could easily be riding.
If UK fails to win this game, it's bowl hopes will ride on defeating either Georgia in Athens or a rising Tennessee squad in Commonwealth Stadium. Both those games present significantly more obstacles to success than Vanderbilt does. Bottom line -- win this game, Wildcats, or the odds are your post-season hopes go up in a cloud of gold and black smoke.
More after the jump.
Team statistical comparison:
|Team Statistics||Kentucky||Opponents||Team Statistics||Vanderbilt||Opponents|
|Scoring: Points/Game||27.1||22.7||Scoring: Points/Game||16.7||22.5|
|Scoring: Games - Points||9 - 244||9 - 204||Scoring: Games - Points||10 - 167||10 - 225|
|First Downs: Total||180||164||First Downs: Total||163||174|
|First Downs: Rushing - Passing - By Penalty||98 - 72 - 10||82 - 72 - 10||First Downs: Rushing - Passing - By Penalty||85 - 70 - 8||101 - 64 - 9|
|Rushing: Yards / Attempt||4.64||4.83||Rushing: Yards / Attempt||4.47||4.22|
|Rushing: Attempts - Yards - TD||372 - 1727 - 19||351 - 1694 - 13||Rushing: Attempts - Yards - TD||384 - 1715 - 12||442 - 1865 - 15|
|Passing: Rating||109.51||106.01||Passing: Rating||88.82||118.10|
|Passing: Yards||1386||1529||Passing: Yards||1465||1667|
|Passing: Attempts - Completions - Interceptions - TD||243 - 138 - 9 - 9||245 - 119 - 12 - 11||Passing: Attempts - Completions - Interceptions - TD||293 - 140 - 8 - 4||256 - 144 - 9 - 11|
|Total Offense: Yards / Play||5.1||5.4||Total Offense: Yards / Play||4.7||5.1|
|Total Offense: Plays - Yards||615 - 3113||596 - 3223||Total Offense: Plays - Yards||677 - 3180||698 - 3532|
|Punt Returns: Yards / Return||14.83||7.00||Punt Returns: Yards / Return||4.12||10.97|
|Punt Returns: Returns - Yards - TD||18 - 267 - 1||7 - 49 - 1||Punt Returns: Returns - Yards - TD||26 - 107 - 0||31 - 340 - 0|
|Kickoff Returns: Yards / Return||23.71||21.92||Kickoff Returns: Yards / Return||23.33||19.67|
|Kickoff Returns: Returns - Yards - TD||38 - 901 - 1||39 - 855 - 0||Kickoff Returns: Returns - Yards - TD||45 - 1050 - 3||36 - 708 - 0|
|Punting: Yards / Punt||38.76||37.30||Punting: Yards / Punt||41.84||42.65|
|Punting: Punts - Yards||41 - 1589||47 - 1753||Punting: Punts - Yards||70 - 2929||60 - 2559|
|Interceptions: Returns - Yards - TD||12 - 183 - 2||9 - 64 - 0||Interceptions: Returns - Yards - TD||9 - 85 - 0||8 - 102 - 0|
|Fumbles: Number - Lost||12 - 6||8 - 3||Fumbles: Number - Lost||20 - 6||11 - 7|
|Penalties: Number - Yards||42 - 373||53 - 424||Penalties: Number - Yards||66 - 515||53 - 442|
|Time of Possession / Game||30:10.22||29:49.11||Time of Possession / Game||25:56.10||34:03.90|
|3rd Down Conversions: Conversion %||40.6%||40.6%||3rd Down Conversions: Conversion %||35.8%||37.27%|
|3rd Down Conversions: Attempts - Conversions||133 - 54||133 - 54||3rd Down Conversions: Attempts - Conversions||162 - 58||161 - 60|
|4th Down Conversions: Conversion %||73.68%||52.94%||4th Down Conversions: Conversion %||50%||53.33%|
|4th Down Conversions: Attempts - Conversions||19 - 14||17 - 9||4th Down Conversions: Attempts - Conversions||12 - 6||15 - 8|
|Red Zone: Success %||80%||73.53%||Red Zone: Success %||70.97%||85.71%|
|Red Zone: Attempts - Scores||35 - 28||34 - 25||Red Zone: Attempts - Scores||31 - 22||28 - 24|
|Field Goals: Success %||63.6%||66.7%||Field Goals: Success %||68.8%||100%|
|Field Goals: Attempts - Made||11 - 7||9 - 6||Field Goals: Attempts - Made||16 - 11||15 - 15|
|PAT Kicking: Success %||93.5%||92.3%||PAT Kicking: Success %||100%||96%|
|PAT Kicking: Attempts - Made||31 - 29||26 - 24||PAT Kicking: Attempts - Made||18 - 18||25 - 24|
|2-Point Conversions: Success %||0%||0%||2-Point Conversions: Success %||0%||0%|
|2-Point Conversions: Attempts - Made||1 - 0||1 - 0||2-Point Conversions: Attempts - Made||1 - 0||1 - 0|
The Commodores have not been successful this year, even by their standards. Their offense has been unable to put enough points on the board, even while their defense has been firmly mid-pack in the SEC, better than Kentucky's defense in almost every category.
Kentucky has been better, but not much better. The 'Cats have suffered from many critical injuries, although most of the worst have now resolved themselves and Kentucky is closer to 100% today than they have been in almost six weeks.
Offensively, senior Mackenzie Adams will start his second straight game as quarterback today. Last year, Kentucky faced dual-threat Chris Nickson in a loss in Commonwealth Stadium, so this will be the first time we have faced Adams, more of a pro-style quarterback than Nickson.
In the running game, freshman tailbacks Zac Stacey and Warren Norman continue to produce for the Commodores, and will be the main ground threat. The Commodores rank last in the entire NCAA in time of possession, and as you can see above, have really struggled to get the ball into the end zone.
Senior Patrick Benoist and sophomore Chris Marve, two excellent Vanderbilt linebackers, will be key to stopping UK's running attack today. Vanderbilt is currently 11th against the run in the SEC, one spot better than Kentucky. Senior defensive ends Broderick Stewart and Steven Stone will be pressuring whoever the UK quarterback du jour is.
The quarterback quandary makes this game tough to call. Vanderbilt is not likely to stop Derrick Locke & Co. on the ground, because they haven't stopped anybody on the ground all year. The question is, can Kentucky put in enough passing efficiency to provide the balance they will need to consistently move the football on the 'Dores defense in Nashville?
Of course, do-everything football player Randall Cobb is a bit of a question mark in this game with a jammed thumb. How will that effect his ability to catch and hold the football? We don't yet know.
Finally, there are defensive stalwarts Trevard Lindley and Micah Johnson. Are they close enough to 100% to impose their will on this game? If so, it could make an anemic Vandy offense look positively futile.
There is not much doubt that Kentucky is a better football team on paoer than Vanderbilt, but that has often meant little in this series. Vanderbilt has played a tougher schedule this year than Kentucky, and the Wildcats will seem like a kiss from mother compared to some of the teams they have played recently. That could give them confidence, and they already have the home field advantage.
I see it like this: Kentucky 27, Vanderbilt 13.