The Kentucky Wildcats will be eager to get back on the winning track when they entertain the Vanderbilt Commodores at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday night. Prior to a recent bye week, Kentucky suffered its first loss of the season at the hands of Texas A&M. The Commodores are 1-4 in their last five contests following last weekend’s collapse against Florida.
Have to bounce back
Vanderbilt is no stranger to tough losses this season. The question now is how the Commodores will bounce back from their latest heartbreaker, this time a 37-27 loss to Florida. Early returns are not encouraging, as earlier in the 2018 campaign they fell to then-No. 8 and current No. 4 Notre Dame 22-17 after possessing the ball at the Fighting Irish 31-yard line late in the game while trailing by just that final five-point margin. The ‘Dores responded by getting blown out 37-14 at home by South Carolina one week later. Their latest setback against the Gators was far more brutal than what transpired against Notre Dame. Vanderbilt led 21-3 before Florida matched its largest road comeback in program history.
“I really don’t (worry about a letdown),” head coach Derek Mason said. “You guys talk about [Kentucky] being ranked; I don’t. I talk about having to go 1-0 that week. So I’m not going to make it bigger than what it is.”
Vandy is simply going to focus on “getting back to the middle,” a phrase bestowed upon them by baseball coach Tim Corbin prior to a 2016 win over Ole Miss. The idea is to play on an even keel from start to finish, especially against top-flight competition. That is something the Commodores have been unable to do this season. They outplayed Notre Dame in the second half but were already too far behind, and they dominated Florida for a while last week before collapsing.
“Every game is an emotional rollercoaster,” linebacker Josh Smith commented. “But we have to learn to stay in the middle. The best ball is played in the middle.”
The other Josh Allen
Kentucky outside linebacker Josh Allen has won three of this season’s first six SEC Defensive Player of the Week awards. Allen ranks eighth in the country in sacks (six) and ninth in tackles for loss (10.5) through six games. In the last three contests against Mississippi State, South Carolina, and Texas A&M, the senior from Montclair, N.J. has recorded 12 tackles (6.0 for loss), four sacks, one forced fumble, and one pass breakup. As a whole, the Wildcats’ stout defense is 11th overall in yards per game allowed and fifth in scoring (surrendering a mere 13.8 points per game). UK has limited all six of its opponents to no more than 20 points.
Meet Josh Allen, Kentucky's dominant defensive playmaker https://t.co/xujOYD9N97
— Draft Wire (@TheDraftWire) October 9, 2018
“The thing I’m probably most proud of with Josh right now…the things we’re practicing and emphasizing he’s been able to put into play in the game,” outside linebackers coach Brad White noted. “I’ve been able to put cut-ups together and say, ‘Look this is what we did in individual (drills). Now look, it’s not just doing it to do it. See how it translates. And when you don’t do it, see what happens.’”
Of course, it’s not like the offense should be overlooked. After all, the Wildcats have a Heisman Trophy contender on their hands in running back Benny Snell. He is the nation’s seventh-leading rusher with 724 yards, averaging more than 5.0 yards per attempt. The junior scored four touchdowns against Mississippi State alone and has twice gained at least 165 yards in a single game.
The Kentucky Wildcats are:
- 4-1 ATS in their last five games following an ATS loss
- 4-1 Under in their last five overall
- 4-0 Under in their last four conference games
The Vanderbilt Commodores are:
- 0-4 ATS in their last four overall
- 1-9-1 ATS in their last 11 conference games
- 3-7-1 ATS in their last 11 games against teams with winning records
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
Kentucky is the Commodores’ third consecutive ranked opponent and it marks their first of a tough three-game road stretch. Tough matchups loom ahead of them and in the rearview mirror, making this test even more difficult than it looks on paper–and it certainly isn’t easy on paper. Moreover, Vandy running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn left the loss to Florida with an unspecified injury. Linebacker Charles Wright, meanwhile, missed a second straight game. He had previously been expected to suit up against the Gators.
Prediction: Kentucky Wildcats
Full-Game Total Pick
Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson is coming off a shaky performance and Snell has been held in check over the last two games. Wilson passed for a mere 108 yards during the overtime loss to Texas A&M. The Wildcats have also committed an unusually high number of pre-snap penalties on offense in recent weeks. Fortunately for the home team, Allen and the defense are in fine form. The under is 5-2 in the Commodores’ last seven overall and 14-6-1 in their last 21 on the road. It is also 4-1 in the Wildcats’ last five overall, 4-0 in their last four against the SEC, and 5-1 after scoring less than 20 points in their previous outing. Additionally, the under is 5-1 in the last six meetings between the two teams. Look for this one to stay under the total.