Last week was much of the same as the week before. WhatIfSports projected a close one, 20-15 Tigers. But like I said, this week was much of the same at the week before. And the week before that. And the week before that. Kentucky shows a small sign of potential; quickly gives a glimmer of hope; builds a tiny increment of confidence in the fans, only to be shot down minutes later. This time against the Missouri Tigers it started on the opening drive of the game.
Jalen Whitlow, Jonathan George and Raymond Sanders combined to move the ball 60 yards down the field on ten plays to start the game. Things were looking good right from the get-go. I was feeling good about the offense chewing up another down-in-the-dumps team. I enjoyed the thought of welcoming the former-Big 12 team to the SEC with another loss. I was even getting my, “They s’posed to be SEC!” tweet ready.
Suddenly, a fumble. It all came crashing down. Such is the life of Kentucky football.
You could make the argument that, aside from Samford next week, Missouri is the worst team on the Cats schedule. If nothing else, Vanderbilt is a close second. But Kentucky lost to the Tigers by 23 points. Which is why the WIS projection for this week, a 21-15 Vanderbilt victory, is interesting. But at least they’re consistent. The Cats are given a 32.2% chance of victory.
Looking ahead, a couple of key factors may have a significant emotional impact for both sides. For starters, it cannot be overlooked that Kentucky football will take the field on Saturday. Kentucky football… Keep that in mind. On the other side, Vanderbilt has all the reason in the world to be hyped for this game. The Commodores currently sit at a no-so-hot 4-4 record on the season, but have the easiest chunk of games in front of them. UK, Ole Miss, at home against in-state rival Tennessee and Wake Forest. Surely the thought of winning out and going 8-4 is on their minds.
Jordan Rodgers, little brother of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron, is the senior leader of the Vanderbilt offense. His stat lines of 1,400 yards passing and just five touchdowns aren’t blowing anybody away, but his reliability under center is what makes him so valuable compared to the turmoil surrounding Kentucky’s quarterback situation.
Zac Stacy is another long-time Commodore that has seen plenty of Kentucky in his time. He leads the team in rushing with 683 yards on 131 attempts, an average of 5.2 yards per carry. Head coach James Franklin will rotate in Wesley Tate and Brian Kimbrow for a couple of touches per game in favor of power over speed, but the damage on the ground will be done by Stacy. Last season he rushed for 135 yards and three touchdowns on Kentucky in a 30-point Vanderbilt win.
It is a sad state of affairs when you’re looking up in the standings at… everybody else. It is officially down to Auburn and Kentucky in the battle for worst team in the SEC. And with the Tigers playing New Mexico State (a one-win team from the WAC), it certainly seems possibly the Cats could secure the title for at least a week.