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I’m not sure what more needs to be said to sum up the season in one sentence… Vanderbilt is favored by a touchdown in Commonwealth Stadium. That is where Joker Phillips and the UK football team find themselves, just two losses away from going winless in the conference for the first time in twelve years.
In total, Kentucky football is one of the least-exciting and least-productive teams in college football. That is the sad truth. The Cats make the Commodores look like a juggernaut by comparison. Their average of 387 yards of total offense blows Kentucky’s 294-yard average away. The offense is scoring nearly a touchdown more per game, and the defense is surrendering almost two touchdowns less. Add it all up, and that’s a spread of about 21 points. Let that sink in. Statistically, Vanderbilt is about 21 points better than Kentucky.
The Kentucky defense handled the Missouri offense fairly well. If it weren’t for the UK offense turning the ball over and giving the Tigers a short field three times, the outcome may have been different. Perhaps most notably, the defense forced three turnovers, including two interceptions by J.D. Harmon on back-to-back plays. It is the shining moment of the secondary this season, which has gone up against some elite offenses over the past several weeks. Mizzou was far from elite, but there were good signs that came from the unit that gave up just 87 yards through the air.
In terms of stats and head-to-head competition Vanderbilt is better than Missouri. The Commodores beat the Tigers by four points on the road in early October, and the Cats just lost by 23. The Vandy offense is led by veterans Jordan Rodgers at quarterback and Zac Stacy at tailback. Last season the duo combined for five touchdowns to beat the Cats 38-8; Rodgers threw for 207 and Stacy rushed for 135.
To make matters worse, the Commodores’ defense only gave Kentucky 32 yards on the ground in 2011. And that was with Maxwell Smith under center. Now that Jalen Whitlow has taken the reigns, the passing game in Big Blue Nation is nearly extinct. Furthermore, the Vanderbilt defense this season has only surrendered more than 17 points to their opponents three times. It’s a surprisingly stingy unit.
Kentucky was in a very similar situation as this in 2004. The Cats were 1-8, having just lost seven straight and were winless in the SEC. Then along came Vanderbilt in the second-to-last game of the season. The Cats won by a point.