Rich Brooks just doesn't get it. His Kentucky program has historically run a dead heat with Vanderbilt (UK leads the all-time series 39-38-4) yet the Commodores always seem to be a game that Wildcat fans look at as a 'W.'
"Sometimes perception and reality are two different things when it comes to down to this series," Brooks said.
When a reporter asked Brooks if his reference to perception and reality regarded the fact that many assume Vanderbilt to be an automatic win, he replied, "Absolutely. Thank you very much. Way to put perspective into it. I don't know when it was an automatic win for Kentucky. Never has been."
In fact, Brooks said the feelings and perceptions at the Vanderbilt camp are similar to those around UK. When asked if the Commodores look at the Cats as a win, he said, "Probably. Doesn't everybody in our league?"
UK senior tailback Alfonso Smith saw no harm in schedule-surfing and looking for potential wins.
"When you're in this league, you look at games when you're not playing Florida, Georgia or Alabama, and say, 'OK, we can get this one,'" Smith said. "I really don't fault (Vanderbilt) for that, because we do the same thing."
Brooks has actually made up ground on Vandy since taking over in 2003, winning five of seven from the Commodores. But Bobby Johnson's squad gave the Cats a big piece of humble pie last season, coming into Commonwealth Stadium and posting a 31-24 win that propelled them to their first bowl game in 26 years.
The Kentucky players all downplayed the revenge factor. But senior defensive tackle Corey Peters did say, "It's safe to say we haven't forgotten. That was one of our worst games of the year last year, and it left a bad taste in our mouths. It was a game we felt like we should have won, but we came out and laid an egg."
At 2-8 overall and winless in six SEC contests, the Commodores won't be going bowling this year. But that also places Vandy in the dangerous role of spoiler, a role UK has also played in the series. The Cats were out of bowl contention in 2005 when they traveled down to Nashville and beat the Commodores 48-43 in a game that ultimately helped keep quarterback Jay Cutler and Co. out of a bowl game.
Vanderbilt traveled to No. 1 Florida last Saturday and fought hard enough not to get embarrassed, losing 27-3 in a game in which the Commodores sacked Gators quarterback Tim Tebow four times.
"I think they'll play pretty loose," Peters said. "I watched the Florida game, and they were extremely loose. They didn't have anything to lose. They're not going to a bowl game, so the only real thing to play for now is to spoil other people's bowl games."
"They can come out and do whatever they want to do," Smith said. "We've got to be ready for trickery and all kinds of stuff. There's no telling what they're going to do."
Another sign of how even Saturday's matchup shapes up is the fact that the two teams are ranked right next to each other in the SEC in six statistical categories: scoring defense (Vandy seventh, UK eighth); total defense (Vandy ninth, UK 10th); rushing defense (Vandy 11th, UK 12th); pass offense (UK 11th, Vandy 12th); pass defense (Vandy third, UK fourth) and passing efficiency (UK 11th, Vandy 12th).
Four of the past five games between the two have been decided by a touchdown or less, and Brooks said it can be the smallest things like a false-start penalty or missed tackle that determines the outcome.
"It's one of those games where you better bring your 'A' game and you better be on," Brooks said. "You know you're going to be in a close game going in. And when you don't play 60 minutes or do the things you're supposed to do, you're going to get beat."
UK-Georgia kickoff set
Kentucky's Nov. 21 game at Georgia has been set for a 7:45 p.m. kickoff and will be televised by either ESPN or ESPN2.
Newton earns honor
UK quarterback Morgan Newton has been named SEC Freshman of Week for his performance in the Wildcats' 37-12 win over Eastern Kentucky. Newton went 20-for-29 passing for 187 yards and two touchdowns.