When you search through the UK record books, especially when it comes to SEC opponents, you are not going to find any school that has really been Kentucky’s “equal” over the last 75 years. Tennessee is probably the best option, having beat Kentucky 71 times in their histories, by far the most of any opponent. But next up on that list is Vanderbilt, believe it or not. Vanderbilt has beaten the Cats 47 different times in their series history, including a 41-point drubbing in 2008, the largest SEC loss in UK history.
But, Kentucky is currently riding a 4-game winning streak against the Commodores, and barring a complete collapse, it will likely push to 5 games tomorrow night. No big deal, right? Actually, it is quite rare. Kentucky hasn’t held a 5-game winning streak over Vandy since they won 18 games in a row between 1993 and 2002. Since that time, Kentucky is just 22-12 against Vandy, with only Florida holding a better win percentage over the Cats in that same time frame. But in that same time frame, Kentucky actually holds THREE different streaks of 5 wins or more against the Gators.
My point is I don’t think UK fans consider Vanderbilt to be a rival. Certainly they consider Florida and Tennessee to be bigger rivals. And there was a time that I think many considered Arkansas to be a bigger rival. But if we look for the most COMPETITIVE matchup for the Cats over the past 15 years or so, Vanderbilt stacks up with anybody in the league. They’ve beaten us in Nashville and in Lexington. They have often given our best teams the best games. They’ve knocked us out of the SEC Tournament 3 times in that span.
So should we start considering Vanderbilt as a major rival in this league? And if not, why?