Three Matchups to Watch: Kentucky Wildcats

Vanderbilt defeats Kentucky 21-17 at Vanderbilt Stadium on November 14, 2015. Photo by Bosley Jarrett.

Vanderbilt continues on its road to 6-6 and bowl eligibility with a home contest against 6-3 Kentucky.

Kentucky is coming off a heartbreaking 37-34 loss to Ole Miss, but the Wildcats have already attained the necessary six wins to guarantee a postseason bowl in head coach Mark Stoops’ fifth season at the helm.

Here’s the three matchups that should decide this divisional game.

Vanderbilt Front Seven vs. Kentucky RB Benny Snell, Jr.

Snell has been on a tear all season and leads the SEC in rushing yards. Snell has run for 897 yards and 12 touchdowns in nine games so far. He only needs 103 yards to make Kentucky history as the only player to rush for 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons.

Vanderbilt’s rushing defense ranks 115th in the FBS. The Commodores have allowed opponents to rush for almost 212 yards a game.

A strong performance from Vanderbilt’s front seven is essential to keeping the Commodores in the game.

Kentucky’s Defense vs. The End of the Game

Twice already, Kentucky has lost SEC games in the waning seconds. Against Florida, Kentucky only had 10 players on the field when it allowed the game-winning touchdown to the Gators with 43 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

Last week, the Wildcats’ secondary allowed Ole Miss’ backup quarterback to throw a seven-yard touchdown pass with just five ticks left on the clock.

Kentucky does not want to drop yet another game because its defense got lax in the final minutes.

Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmur has the arm and poise to lead to Commodores on a scoring drive late in the game, so the Wildcats need to be careful.

Vanderbilt’s Student Section vs. Tailgates

The official attendance for last week’s home game against Western Kentucky was 26,350. Like most games, the stadium basically emptied out of students by halftime. Part of the poor attendance can be blamed on the early 11 AM kickoff in the middle of two major testing weeks for students.

Western Kentucky is also a non-conference opponent, and they usually attract less attendance.

Even still, the weather was perfect for a football game last weekend and figures to be incredible this Saturday as well. The 3 PM kickoff also lets students sleep in before attending the customary pre-game tailgates.

Hopefully, there will be more students to cheer on the Commodores, who need this victory to get closer to clinching a spot in the postseason.

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