Kentucky at Vanderbilt
When: 4 p.m. (EST) Saturday
Where: Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville
Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1, XM Channel 191, Sirius Channel 157
Records: Kentucky 6-3 (3-3 SEC), Vanderbilt 4-5 (0-5 SEC)
Series: Kentucky leads 43-42-4
Last meeting: Kentucky won 20-13 on Oct. 8, 2016, in Lexington
Line: Vanderbilt is favored by three points
The story line
Coming off a crushing, last-second defeat to Mississippi, Kentucky goes to Nashville seeking to win a seventh game in a season for a second straight year. The Wildcats will also attempt to give UK head man Mark Stoops his first victory at Vandy in his third try. Needing two victories in their final three games for bowl eligibility, Coach Derek Mason’s Commodores figure to play with an urgency that the already-bowl-eligible Cats must match.
The big threat
Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmur. The 6-foot-4, 227-pound junior is completing a so-so 55.9 percent of his passes but Shurmur has thrown 20 touchdowns vs. only three interceptions. In C.J. Duncan (34 catches, four TDs), Trent Sherfield (32 catches, three TDs) and Kalija Lipscomb (26 catches, six TDs), Shurmur has a capable receiving corps to go against Kentucky’s struggling pass defense.
On the spot
Kentucky secondary. After getting strafed for 382 yards by Mississippi’s (very good) passing attack, UK is 120th out of 129 FBS schools in pass defense, surrendering a robust 279.4 yards a game. Simply put, if UK is going to close out this season on a positive note, it must get its veteran defensive backfield back on track.
Is apprehensive. Kentucky was five seconds from a 7-2 record only to see Ole Miss snatch victory from the Cats’ grasp. Things will get pretty surly in the Big Blue Nation if the Wildcats lose back-to-back to Mississippi and Vanderbilt.