Bobby Johnson has done some commendable things during his seven-year run at Vanderbilt. He's beaten traditional powers Georgia and Auburn, and knocked off Tennessee and South Carolina, two teams that the University of Kentucky hasn't beaten in quite a while.
Johnson, in fact, has two straight wins over Steve Spurrier, who is 16-0 lifetime against UK.
Never miss a local story.
But the one thing that Johnson hasn't been able to do is end Vanderbilt's 26-year bowl drought, and Kentucky has had a direct hand in that streak in the past three seasons.
In 2005, a Jay Cutler-led Commodore team needed wins in its final two games against Kentucky and Tennessee to become bowl-eligible, but a Wildcats team that finished just 3-8 went into Nashville and pulled out a wild 48-43 win.
It was the same scenario the following year, but Vandy was done in by a pair of fourth-quarter goal-line interceptions in a 38-26 loss that got the Cats in a bowl for the first time since 1998.
Vandy went into last year's game needing just one win to get to a bowl, but it came up on the short end of a 27-20 score.
The Wildcats (6-4, 2-4 SEC) will once again be standing in the way of bowl eligibility for Vandy (5-4, 3-3), which has to win one of its final three to qualify for post-season play for the first time since 1982.
"I don't think there's any question they're going to be geeked up," UK Coach Rich Brooks said. "They'll be as high as they've been all year, I'm sure. They'll have plenty of motivation, and some of that can be revenge because we kept them out of (bowl contention) while we got ourselves in position. It's two of the traditional bottom feeders. If you don't beat the other one you have a hard time having a good year. They've beaten some people we haven't been able to beat, we've beat some people they haven't beat. The bottom line is only one of us is going to come out of it with a win. It'll be like two starving dogs fighting over the last piece of meat."
The Kentucky players know they'll get Vandy's best shot Saturday night.
"Coach Brooks has already been talking to us about that," senior cornerback David Jones. "They're going to be hungry. We've got to come out and match their intensity."
"We've kept them out of a bowl the past three years, so they're going to come after us," junior defensive end Jeremy Jarmon said. "I'm sure they think they can get that sixth win on us, so we're going to have to fight."
Earlier in the season it looked as if Vanderbilt would have a bowl bid wrapped up by the time they got to Lexington. The Commodores were riding high at 5-0 and were ranked 13th in the country after a 14-13 win over Auburn on Oct. 4. But Vandy has dropped four straight since, including a 10-7 home loss to Duke on Oct. 25. The Commodores must face Tennessee and Wake Forest after leaving Lexington.
Johnson said he's not worried about his team's emotional state as it prepares for UK.
"We've got to put it behind us and see if we can get something positive going for us," Johnson said. "We're ready to start over."
"I think we're going to be OK. Our guys realize we have three tough games left, but we're looking at it as three opportunities. They're not going in a shell. I think they're ready to come out and work this week and try to get better."
JV game next Monday
Kentucky will play a junior-varsity game next Monday at Commonwealth Stadium against Fork Union Military Academy. Kickoff is set for noon.
UK sophomore running back Moncell Allen played at Fork Union for one season before enrolling at UK, and 2008 signee Donte Rumph, a defensive lineman, currently plays for Fork Union. The Wildcats have an open date next week before facing the University of Tennessee on Nov. 29.