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Kentucky/Vanderbilt Football Preview

Kentucky Wildcats linebacker Jordan Wright (15) made a fourth quarter interception and returned it for a touchdown as Kentucky defeated Mississippi State 24-2 on October 10, 2020. Photo by Mark Cornelison

The 2-4 Cats will be back at Kroger Field this Saturday to host SEC-East foe 0-5 Vanderbilt following a much needed bye week. This matchup is one of just three SEC games now scheduled to be played for the weekend due to Covid-19 complication surrounding the southeast and America in general.

Kentucky has had their own Coronavirus complications in the past few weeks, but cleared the air recently though a press release saying they will be ready to play. Maybe the biggest news outside of football in the last few days that will be on the minds of staff and players is the loss of offensive line coach John Schlarman.

UK Head Coach Mark Stoops said yesterday that the Cats look to live out his legacy as he had such a great impact on each person in the program.

“John was everything we all strive to be – honest, tough, fair, respected. Kentucky football won’t be the same without him but his legacy will never fade. He was a fighter and we will strive every day to honor his warrior spirit,” he said.

Schlarman’s o-line could be the key to victory on Saturday, as Vanderbilt currently ranks near the bottom in every defensive category in the SEC including 13th in yards per carry given up. The Cats have had much success running the ball against the Commodores in the past (398 rushing yards last year), and it will be important to set the tempo early by feeding the team’s leading rusher Chris Rodriguez. Especially against a team without a win on the season, it could be best to stick to their bread and butter early as the third leading rush team in the SEC (176.17 per game).

Vanderbilt also ranks near the bottom of the league in every offensive statistical category, including last in scoring. Ironically, UK is first in scoring defense (19.8 ppg) along with high rankings in most categories on that side of the ball, which makes setting the tempo and starting ahead even more important.

It will be a tough game for the program given recent circumstances with John Schlarman’s passing, as he was such an amazing figure around the program. If they can come out victorious, it can be a game that gives them some momentum towards the back half of a season that still includes road trips to Alabama and Florida before finishing at home against South Carolina.

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