Vanderbilt has used Chris Nickson and Mackenzi Adams at quarterback this year, and both are veterans with plenty of starts under their belts. Freshman Randall Cobb gave the UK offense a much-needed jolt against Georgia, delivering 187 total yards and three touchdowns on the ground.
Vandy uses primarily one running back, junior Jared Hawkins (507 yards rushing). Kentucky senior running back Tony Dixon has played his best ball of the season the past two games and ran for two TDs against Georgia. He'll be backed up by junior Alfonso Smith.
The Commodores have struggled to replace Earl Bennett, the Southeastern Conference's all-time leading receiver who's now with the Chicago Bears. Senior Sean Walker is the leading receiver with 26 catches for 386 yards and three touchdowns. While that's not outstanding production, it's significantly more than anyone in UK's rotation.
Vandy lost all five starters from last year's line, including first-round NFL draft pick Chris Williams (Chicago Bears). But the numbers don't look that bad; Vandy ranks in the middle of the pack in both rushing offense and sacks allowed. The UK line continues to pass protect well (SEC-low 10 sacks allowed), and it opened up enough holes for the Cats to rush for a season-high 226 yards against Georgia last week.
Vanderbilt and UK rank 1-2 in the SEC in sacks. (Vandy's total of 26 is one more than Kentucky's.) The Commodores have two threats off the edge in juniors Broderick Stewart (4.5 sacks) and Steven Stone (four sacks). UK's line arguably has been one of the best in the league, but it likely won't get a huge contribution from senior tackle Myron Pryor, who's still nursing a high ankle sprain.
Weak-side linebacker Patrick Benoist (78 tackles) and middle linebacker Chris Marve (74 tackles) rank in the top five in the league. UK junior middle linebacker Micah Johnson is having a breakout season (63 tackles, nine tackles for loss) despite battling a high-ankle sprain and a recent bout of the flu.
This game will feature perhaps the league's best cornerbacks in Vanderbilt's D. J. Moore and Kentucky's Trevard Lindley. While both secondaries are solid, Vanderbilt is probably a little more productive all-around. Moore has four picks and six pass breakups and is flanked by junior corner Myron Lewis (five sacks, three interceptions, five pass breakups) and junior safety Ryan Hamilton (three picks, three fumble recoveries). Kentucky struggled mightily when Lindley left in the second half of the Georgia game with a knee injury.
The Vandy kicking game has cooled off a bit after a hot start. Bryant Hahnfeldt has missed his last four field-goal attempts after making his first seven. D.J. Moore is a dangerous punt returner, but the Commodores are near the bottom of the league in kickoff returns and kickoff coverage. UK had its most productive special teams game of the season last week, as the Cats blocked a punt, got a 40-yard Lones Seiber field goal and had a 96-yard kickoff return by Winston Guy. Guy might give Randall Cobb a rest on punt returns also. Tim Masthay continues to lead the league in punting.