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Vanderbilt is learning how to win.
Looking over the SEC schedules before the season, the Wildcats vs. the Commodores game is not one of the games most fans circled. Yet, that game holds heavy importance for both teams.
Kentucky (4-5) is riding a five-game bowl appearance streak with three games left to play. Vanderbilt (4-5) is looking to go bowling for only the fifth time in the team’s history and the first time since 2008.
Head coach Joker Phillips is in his second year with the Wildcats. James Franklin is a first-year head coach for the Commodores. Both coaches are trying to build a solid SEC program and need a win this weekend to keep their bowl hopes alive.
Phillips will call upon true freshman Maxwell Smith (Granada Hills, California), for the third game in a row to lead his team. Smith has played well in the place of injured quarterback Morgan Newton. Newton is healthy enough to play this week but will serve as the team’s second string quarterback.
The missing element from Kentucky’s offense this year has been a passing attack. Smith threw for 283 yards on 19 completions with two touchdowns against Ole Miss last week, igniting hope for Wildcat fans that they can finish the season strong.
With the passing game elevated, the running game has responded as well. CoShik Williams had a game-high 111 rushing yards on 25 carries finding the end zone twice against the Rebels.
Vanderbilt has continued their maturation process this season. The Commodores were a couple of plays away from possibly beating Georgia, Arkansas and Florida over their past four games. Franklin’s young team has not learned how to win yet. The SEC East better watch out for this team next season.
Jordan Rodgers continues to impress after taking over for senior quarterback Larry Smith. Rodgers has started the last three games and finished last week’s game against Florida with 297 yards passing, two touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Commodore running back Zac Stacey was held to 23 rushing yards after back-to-back 100-yard performances ageist Army and Arkansas.
The game will come down to which defense can make the other team’s offense make mistakes. This heavily favors Vanderbilt.
Vanderbilt has the 30th ranked defense in the nation, despite a lack of support from the offense for most of the season.
Vanderbilt keeps their bowl hopes alive.
Vanderbilt 28, Kentucky 17