Cats Begin SEC Play On Saturday
The Kentucky Wildcats are 3-0 for a third straight season for the first time since the 1910s. On Saturday they hit the road for the first time in 2023 when they made the short trip to Nashville. Mark Stoops’ club is looking for some redemption for a bad loss a year ago. Let’s look at both teams and give you a score prediction as Kentucky looks for revenge against Vanderbilt.
Still Sorting Things Out
In the Wildcats’ blowout win over Akron, a troubling trend continued. The Cats only ran 49 plays from scrimmage as the Zips won the time of possession. On the season they’re averaging 53. A big reason for that was once again turnovers and penalties. UK lost one touchdown due to a fumble in the end zone and a second was called back due to a holding penalty. Overall Kentucky had three turnovers and four fumbles, losing two. That isn’t going to cut it against SEC competition.
We’ve talked all year about how offensive coordinator Liam Coen wants to play faster. Unfortunately for the BBN, it hasn’t happened. Two years ago when Coen headed the offense Kentucky averaged 66 plays a game. Even last year in the disaster that was Rich Scangarello they still managed 62 plays a game.
Another issue is with the dynamic duo of Barion Brown and Dane Key. Against Akron, they combined for two catches and each had a drop that would have resulted in a big gain. In addition, a Devin Leary interception came when Key ran one route and Leary was thinking another. The staff knows this will work itself out. They just hope it’s sooner than later.
One player who’s had a resurgence in 2023 is “Super Senior” Tayvion Robinson. In three games he’s become Leary’s go-to guy with 14 receptions for 260 yards and three touchdowns. Furthermore running back Ray Davis has been outstanding both running and catching the ball. Davis had 169 yards of total offense and two touchdowns against Akron.
Scouting The Commodores
Clark Lea’s team comes into Saturday sporting a 2-2 record. In their season opener, they beat Hawaii 35-28 and then Alabama A&M 47-13. However, since then they’ve dropped two straight. Vandy lost on the road to undefeated Wake Forest 36-20 and last week they fell at UNLV 40-37.
In Las Vegas, they built a 17-0 lead and then gave up 30 unanswered points. They rallied to tie it at 37 but missed a potential game-winning field goal. After giving up a long pass the Rebels kicked a field goal with five seconds to win.
The Commodore offense is led by quarterback AJ Swann. So far in four games, he’s thrown for 1,101 yards and 11 touchdowns. His main target is wide receiver Will Sheppard. The senior has 25 receptions for 314 yards and six touchdowns. He leads the SEC in both receptions and touchdowns and is fourth in receiving yards. Sheppard caught the game-winner last year and he and Swann will test the Wildcat secondary.
Now that we’ve looked a both teams let’s give you some history between the long-time rivals.
Saturday marks the 98th time the two schools have met with Kentucky leading overall 48-43-4. Interesting stat for you, between 1896 and 1938 UK and Vandy played 17 times with the Commodores winning 16 with one tie. However, since then the Cats hold a 48-27 edge with three ties. Overall Stoops is 7-3 against Vandy while Lea is 1-1 versus the Cats.
Last year’s contest was one to forget to the Big Blue Nation. Behind 129 yards and a touchdown from Davis Vandy upset Kentucky in Lexington ending a 26-game SEC losing streak. In addition quarterback Mike Wright threw for 184 yards and ran for another 126. Ironically the two stars from 2022 are now on different teams, Wright is at Mississippi State, and Davis of course at Kentucky.
As we like to do every week let’s give you a prediction on the outcome as Kentucky looks for revenge against Vanderbilt.
Who Wins On Saturday?
The Wildcats have won the last three in Nashville by a combined 56 points. On paper things set up well for Kentucky as they’ve played much better in the second half than the first, while it’s the complete opposite for Vanderbilt. They started quickly then faltered after the intermission.
The environment will certainly be interesting on Saturday as FirstBank Stadium is undergoing renovations. The scoreboard is being held up by a crane while the visitor’s locker room is a giant tent.
Kentucky looks for revenge after Vandy gave Stoops arguably one of the worst losses in his time in Lexington. Another thing to watch is Davis facing his former team. Look for him to have another big game as the Cats get off to a good start in SEC play.
Thanks for checking out our preview as Kentucky looks for revenge against Vanderbilt. We’ll have a complete recap after the game.