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Kentucky Wildcats Football Season Preview: Vanderbilt Commodores

The Cats travel to Nashville in Week 10 to battle the Commodores.

NCAA Football: Independence Bowl-North Carolina State vs Vanderbilt Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

After a couple of rough seasons in Nashville, Derek Mason seems to have finally righted the ship in Nashville.

Following a disappointing loss to Missouri, the Commodore offense caught fire and scored 83 points in wins over Ole Miss and Tennessee which resulted in becoming bowl eligible. The 83 points scored in back to back games were the most for the Commodores since 1948, so it is easy to see why optimism is high in Nashville.

If Commodore fans are expecting this to be a high octane offense from day one, it's time to curb that enthusiasm. For the most part, Kyle Shurmur struggled before catching fire in the Ole Miss and Tennessee games. He completed just 54.4% of his passes and had just 9 TDs versus 10 interceptions and was sacked 32 times.

If the Shurmur of Ole Miss/Tennessee returns, the Commodores are well on their way to another bowl. If the Independence Bowl Shurmur is back (158 yards passing, 3 interceptions), this year will be another struggle.

The running game will be able to grind it out and keep the Commodores in a lot of games, however. Ralph Webb has back to back thousand year seasons under his belt and he had 13 touchdowns last year. Former linebacker Khari Blasingame had 449 yards rushing and 10 TDs and the staff is excited about redshirt freshman Jamauri Wakefield. The Commodores should have a solid line to run behind as well.

Shurmur has his top receiving targets in CJ Duncan, Trent Sherfield, and Caleb Scott returning. All had around 470 yards receiving but Scott averaged 19.3 yards a reception. There was only one touchdown, by Sherfield, in this group with 102 catches between them. Kalija Lipscomb rounds out the four man rotation with 319 yards and 2 touchdowns. Drops were an issue with this group, but it is an experienced and solid corps returning.

As always, the Commodores will be a tough defensive unit, even after losing Zach Cunningham. The defensive line lost Adam Butler and he will be tough to replace. Nifae Lealao returns, and it will be a deep unit, but they will need to continue to put pressure on the quarterback.

Senior Oren Burks will be tasked with replacing Cunningham but he played well last season. The defensive backfield is experienced and the deepest part of the defense and this unit could feature five seniors on the field.

As always, expect the Kentucky and Vanderbilt game to be close and a grind. While Vanderbilt is not a threat to win the SEC East, they are always the team you really do not want to play as they are a cohesive unit and will fight you to the end. It is easy to dismiss the Commodores 6-7 record, but some of those losses were by 3 points to South Carolina, by 7 to Florida, and by 7 to Auburn.

Kentucky defeated the Commodores by 7 last year and we should expect another grind this year. Kentucky and Vandy have fallen into a rut of the home team winning each year for the past four years and this will be in Nashville. It's a game that can go either way, but I think that Kentucky is just better on both sides of the ball this year and the talent will find a way to win. Let's call it 24-20.