While the Vanderbilt game cannot be considered a signature win because of both programs' history as conference bottom feeders, the game is a bellwether game. We have to beat the Commodores before we can make any real claim of improvement under Mark Stoops. Kentucky looked the part against Florida, but thanks to Alabama, Florida doesn't look all that great. So, while we passed the "look" test, we can't rest assured that what we saw is the truth.
We know Vanderbilt is going through a difficult time with a new coaching staff, new systems and the fact that they have played 31 first year players so far this year. The results have proven less than desirable. However, everyone claims that Vandy is getting better with each passing week. Perhaps that is true, but it isn't showing up in the stats. The assumption comes from their game against South Carolina last week.
As you probably know, Steve Spurrier has been bad-mouthing his team for their performance so far this season. He may be trying to motivate his team before Saturday's game against Missouri, or he may be correct that the Gamecocks have not measured up to preseason expectations.
One thing we learned from the Gamecocks-Commodores matchup is that South Carolina is relatively strong on offense, but their defense is lacking. Another lesson learned is Vandy is better on defense and special teams than they are offensively. Let's look at how we compare with both teams.
Click on the slides to make ‘em big enough to read.
These first two slides clearly show that Kentucky has a much better offense than Vanderbilt and may be able to claim that our offense is almost as good as South Carolina's. Vanderbilt hasn't been road tested and they will come into a packed house at Commonwealth Stadium. These first two slides also show Vanderbilt biggest strength and South Carolina's weakness on special teams. Both of Vandy's kickoff return touchdown came against the Gamecocks last week. I'm sure our coaching staff is well aware of this and will make some kind of adjustment to keep the ball away from Derrius Sims.
The next two slides show what Steve Spurrier has been complaining about.
From the first game forward, the Gamecock secondary has been their weakness. You have heard the announcers on TV discuss this.
After looking at the above slide, you can see that the Gamecock secondary isn't their only problem on defense. Vanderbilt shows up clearly to have a better defense than offense.You can also see why Kentucky is favored against the Commodores.
The only variable here is scheduling, so let's look at that.
South Carolina has played the tougher schedule without a doubt. Losing to Texas A&M is nothing to turn one's nose up over. What indicates South Carolina's weakness is how close the score of the other games have been. I would have to say that Vanderbilt's schedule so far has been tougher than ours also. The Commodore's schedule shows big losses to Temple and Mississippi, but their win over a very weak UMASS tells the story of just how bad this version of Vanderbilt football is.
Kentucky has to play well against Vanderbilt and they have to win. They have too much riding on this game. A packed house will help, but if Vanderbilt wins, Commonwealth will no longer be full the rest of the season. A loss will hurt Kentucky's recruiting. That should go without saying. The prospects of winning another game (LA-Monroe being the exception) dim considerably. A lot is at stake. Are the Cats up to the task?
Why am I including South Carolina in this article? I won't be available next week until after the South Carolina game. I'll be on a bucket list cruise to Aruba, Grand Turk and Curacao. I'm taping the Vandy game and will get home the day of the SC game. So yeah, I'm looking ahead here.
I want to end this by presenting some possibilities:
Win this game and we stand at 3-1
Win against Carolina and we'll be 4-1
Win against LA-Monroe and we'll be 5-1
Surely, we can pull out one more win in the second half of our schedule. If so, BOWL GAME!
Our home schedule includes Mississippi State and Georgia (who lost to South Carolina). Our road games are at LSU (who lost at home to Miss. St.), Missouri (who lost at home to Indiana), Tennessee and Louisville. You can pick which one we win or tell me I'm full of it.