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Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt Roundtable and Predictions

Breaking down Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt and making predictions for who wins this SEC clash.

Jason Marcum - Sea of Blue

After having a week off, the Kentucky Wildcats look to get back to their winning ways Saturday night at Kroger Field as the Vanderbilt Commodores pay a visit.

The No. 14 Wildcats (5-1, 3-1 SEC) are coming off a tough loss at Texas A&M 20-14 in overtime, a game where the Cats left College Station angry that they didn’t come through with a victory. However, the bye week probably came at the ideal time for Big Blue with several SEC dates looming and the chance to possibly play in the SEC Championship game in Atlanta.

The Commodores (3-4, 0-3 SEC) are entering Lexington after an emotional 37-27 loss to #14 Florida in Nashville, a game Vandy could have easily won if not for costly turnovers and several big plays given up by their defense. But as always, the ‘Dores have the ability to compete at a high level at times like their 22-17 loss at No. 8 Notre Dame, a game Vandy feels like they should have won. Again, though, the turnover bug cost them that victory as well.

The writers at A Sea of Blue have come together at our virtual roundtable to hash out the Cats/Commodores matchup. Can UK get back to its winning ways against Vanderbilt and continue its quest toward a historic season?

Let’s find out!

Shane Shackleford

To me, it doesn’t matter what their records are or where the game is played at, when Kentucky and Vanderbilt hook up it will be a close, physical match-up. The ‘Dores will come to Lexington looking not to compete but to win. But to do that, they have to eliminate bad turnovers at very costly times and giving up the big play on defense.

Vandy’s hopes ride on their senior QB Kyle Shurmur. Shurmur has proven he can keep Vandy in games with his arm and football IQ, but more often than not he hasn’t been able to get his team over the proverbial hump and beat ranked foes. Shurmur will also need for his supporting cast to produce and, most importantly, protect the football in order for Vandy to have a chance at victory.

For Kentucky, the formula is simple; get back to who they are. The Cats got to 5-1 by doing three things as well as anyone in the country; run the football well behind their o-line and backs Benny Snell Jr. and Asim Rose, stop the run and rush the passer led by LB Josh Allen, and play great special teams. I believe coach Mark Stoops and offensive coordinator Eddie Gran will get the Cats back to what they know off the bye week.

Taking all this into consideration, I look for UK to go to 6-1 on the season with a victory under the lights of Kroger Field in a tough, hard-nosed game.

Prediction: Kentucky 27, Vandy 17.

Same Gillenwater

Coming off their first loss of the season and a bye week, Kentucky will square off with Vanderbilt in their homecoming game on Saturday night. Although they didn’t play, Kentucky jumped four spots in this week’s AP Poll to No. 14 due to a crazy weekend in college football.

The one thing Kentucky is hoping for is a more efficient offense coming out of the bye. At Texas A&M, the offense looked inept for most of the game. Terry Wilson took way too many sacks trying to force a QB run or while searching too long for a target in the pocket, which eventually cost the Wildcats in overtime when another sack pushed Miles Butlers’ field goal attempt inches out of range. Benny Snell Jr. was also held in check due to Kentucky always playing behind the chains because of penalties. Had it not been for Darius Wests’ fumble recovery touchdown, that game wouldn’t have even made it to overtime and deservedly so.

That being said, Kentucky has had time off to figure whatever issues they may have had on offense out for the second half of the year. With Vanderbilt coming off a morale-killing loss to Florida after leading by 18 at home and starting 0-3 in conference play, Kentucky has a good opportunity to reassert themselves with a win and will continue to gain momentum towards a national stage.

Prediction: Kentucky 35, Vandy 17

Nick Wheatley

Vanderbilt has been incredibly inconsistent so far this season. They’ve looked dominant against a couple bad teams, but barely escaped a terrible Tennessee State team. They had a chance to win at Notre Dame and at home against Florida, but they got destroyed at home against South Carolina.

Kyle Shurmur is a savvy senior QB. He doesn’t put up gaudy statistics, he’s pretty average, but he is a veteran leader. He does rank 4th in the SEC in passing yards.

The team is led, though, by RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn. Vaughn is an explosive playmaker that ranks 6th in the SEC in rushing yards (495), 4th in yards per carry (6.9), and 7th in rushing touchdowns (7). He also has 7 receptions for 131 yards and a touchdown on the season.

Vaughn transferred from Illinois and sat out last season. He had 9 carries for 89 yards (9.9 ypc) against Georgia and Vanderbilt seemed to score with ease last week while Vaughn was on the field against Florida. He had a 43-yard run and a 75-yard touchdown catch before he was sidelined with an unspecified injury. He is expected to play Saturday.

Vanderbilt’s defense is probably a little below average. They rank 69th in the country in scoring defense. They’re giving up about 27 points per game. That’s not great.

They do have an absolute beast, though, at LB in Jordan Griffin. Griffin ranks 2nd in the SEC in tackles (68). He recorded 18 tackles against Florida this past weekend. That’s pretty impressive. He’ll be another player to watch out for Saturday.

With all that being said, the ‘Dores are not a very good team. They have a lowly defense, and their offense is pretty mediocre. I don’t think they will be able to contain Benny Snell, Josh Allen, and Terry Wilson at all. Cats win in a blowout.

Prediction: Kentucky 38, Vandy 10

Jamie Boggs

Yes, Vanderbilt played Notre Dame close. So did Ball State and Pitt. Yes, they got a jump on Florida. But then Florida finished the game on a 34-6 run.

Don’t let the Commodores’ near successes scare you. They are not a dangerous football team that is going to put a lot of points on the board. They do not have an overwhelming defense that will live in Kentucky’s backfield.

For the first time in recent memory, Kentucky is head and shoulders better than Vanderbilt. And coming off of a bye week, the Wildcats are rested and healthy.

I think Kentucky holds Vandy to less than 10 points and dominates the football game. Benny Snell has a monster game and Terry Wilson takes a big stride forward.

If Kentucky wins convincingly, and with a few losses from other teams, the Wildcats will inch their way closer to the top 10 and continue to build toward that November 3rd battle with Georgia.

Due to Florida’s resurgence, the SEC East is no longer a two horse race. So Kentucky needs every victory they can get to have a chance at winning the division. That makes the Vanderbilt game as well as the match-up next week with Missouri even more important.

Prediction: Kentucky 31, Vanderbilt 6

Aaron Gershon

With Florida and Georiga on bye, if Kentucky can take down Vandy Saturday the Cats would be in first place in the SEC East. Yes, you read that correctly: first place.

Kentucky fresh off a bye week is still upset about their loss down in College Station to the Aggies. They’ve been craving the chance to get back on the field. They’re going to do so against arguably the worst team in the SEC at Kroger Field. Vanderbilt kept things interesting for a while with Florida last week but did not have to play them coming off a loss like they will have to with Kentucky.

Kentucky is by far the better team and if they’re going to be upset this season it likely won’t be at home against a weak Vanderbilt team. Kentucky should get Terry Wilson and the offense back on track against a Vandy defense that ranks 112th in the nation in yards allowed.

Prediction: Kentucky 34, Vanderbilt 10

Adam Haste

Saturday when the Cats take the field they will have a chance to become bowl eligible and potentially make the Georgia game a battle for the East, if Georgia can take down the Florida Gators. A win over Vandy would also get this team back on track after a loss on the road.

In my opinion, Kentucky is a much better team than Vandy and I think they will have a tough time trying to do anything against Kentucky’s defense that has been great all season. I also think the Wildcats’ offense will be able to get back in a groove and put up a lot of points on the Commodore defense.

Prediction: Kentucky 28, Vanderbilt 10

Drew Brown

Homecoming, a bye week, and an inferior opponent are all solid ingredients for a team to have let down game. It will serve Kentucky well to get out to a quick start on Saturday night. Vanderbilt has shown signs of being competitive against good teams this year, but they should not be able to hang close with the Cats inside Kroger Field. If UK can just feed Benny Snell and manufacture some points the defense should take care of the rest. On the season Kentucky is only giving up around 13 points per game and I expect their dominance to continue against the Commodores. Cats win big and the showdown with Georgia gets one game closer.

Prediction: Kentucky 38, Vandy, 17

Drew Koch

Kentucky’s home game against Vanderbilt is one in which the Cats should cruise to victory, but don’t be sure that Saturday’s game is an automatic check in the win column. Vandy took Florida to task last week and almost walked out with a win. The Commodores have had a very difficult schedule in the SEC thus far and should not be overlooked.

That being said, Kentucky should handle their business against a team who hasn’t won an SEC game this season. I expect to see the best version of Terry Wilson on Saturday, as his performance two weeks ago in College Station left a lot to be desired. We should see Benny Snell get back on track and the very best from this stalwart UK defense.

A return to the friendly confines of Kroger Field is just what the doctor ordered for the Wildcats. I expect them to put on a show for the home crowd and get that sixth win of the season that eluded them two weeks ago.

Prediction: Kentucky 34, Vanderbilt 17