College football has reached Week 10 and the SEC Wizard is back to give you betting picks and tips!
Kentucky-Vanderbilt represents a critical game for these SEC East teams in terms of narrative.
The Wildcats (6-3) won bunches of games early, while outsiders criticized the team as a paper tiger. A loss here, with Georgia and Louisville next, would put UK in danger of finishing the season 1-5.
Vanderbilt (4-5), meanwhile, got a little full of itself after a 3-0 start that included a close win against then-ranked Kansas State in Nashville. The Commodores need this one to stay on track for a bowl game.
College football betting picks, Kentucky-Vanderbilt
If UK wins, the Wildcats still have a shot to finish second in the SEC East this year. Vanderbilt is 0-5 in the SEC and wants to avoid a winless conference record.
How Kentucky can win: Benny Snell finally got going the last two weeks, rushing for 180 vs. Tennessee and 176 vs. Ole Miss. The Vanderbilt defense has given up a conference-worst 23 rushing TDs this season, along with 5.1 yards per carry. If Snell can produce another monster game, Kentucky has a great chance to win. Vanderbilt has taken very good care of the ball this year — the ‘Dores have committed just 7 turnovers in 9 games — but if UK can force a couple of big mistakes on top of a big game by Snell, the Wildcats will win.
How Vanderbilt can win: Let’s continue that thought from the UK section. Vanderbilt can win by continuing to avoid turnovers. The running game is another good place to go in this type of tossup game. Just like Snell, Ralph Webb — Vandy’s all-time leading rusher — finally got on track with 100-yard games in 2 of the last 3 outings. If the ‘Dores get a semblance of balance on offense, can end Snell’s mini-streak and don’t turn over the ball, Derek Mason may celebrate his first SEC win of the season.
Kentucky has gone from a quiet under-performer that came within a play of a 6-0 start to a team losing games against the spread and on the scoreboard. UK has been favored in 3 of 6 SEC games. So it’s clear how little respect oddsmakers are now giving the Wildcats compared to earlier this year.
Kentucky has been very bland on both sides of the ball all season. It’s hard to determine a strong identity. These numbers back that assertion. With 130 FBS teams, No. 65 is average. So UK is slightly worse than average on offense, defense and overall.
- P Matt Panton (suspension) won’t play against Kentucky. Panton got arrested for public intoxication.
- RB A.J. Rose (undisclosed) is questionable against Vanderbilt.
- WR Dorian Baker and T Cole Mosier suffered season-ending injuries before Week 1. But Kentucky is surprisingly healthy for an SEC team in mid-November.
The Wildcats are 1-2 since an Oct. 14 bye, including a fortunate 29-26 home win against Tennessee. UK clinched bowl eligibility in that game. But with Georgia and a still-outstanding Lamar Jackson (Louisville) left on the schedule, Kentucky’s best shot at a seventh win is this Saturday.
Stoops is recruiting as well as Kentucky has in decades, maybe ever. His classes typically are borderline top 25. That hasn’t translated into wild success, even in a historically bad SEC East. But UK seems headed for back-to-back 7-6 seasons, give or take one game.
That’s good enough at Kentucky. The question now becomes whether this program has peaked, and if Stoops can sustain this level.
I’d equate Johnson to a poor man’s Jalen Hurts, though Johnson is actually better at throwing the deep ball.
Johnson can beat you with his legs on occasion, and he’s done a pretty nice job of protecting the football. He won’t blow you away with any measurables, but he’s just a good, efficient ballplayer.
Vanderbilt ended a 4-game spread losing streak by pushing against South Carolina in Week 9, then won by 14 as a 13-point favorite against Western Kentucky last week. So, to recap: In the last 7 weeks, Vanderbilt has pushed once and covered the spread by 1 point once. That’s not a confidence-inspiring track record for betters looking to back the ‘Dores here.
Vanderbilt’s defense, the foundation of every good Commodores team in recent years, really misses Zach Cunningham and others. Only Missouri, Arkansas and Ole Miss rank lower among SEC defenses.
- RB Khari Blasingame (undisclosed) is questionable Saturday vs. Kentucky.
- FB Bailey McElwain (foot) is out indefinitely.
- Vanderbilt is even healthier than Kentucky. These are probably the two healthiest teams in the SEC.
Vanderbilt snapped a five-game losing streak last weekend, beating Western Kentucky 31-17. But the Commodores remain winless in SEC play. Missouri and Tennessee remain on the schedule, so grabbing a fifth victory here would be good for the team’s bowl hopes.
Mason is an excellent defensive coordinator and a pretty average head coach. That said, getting Vanderbilt to back-to-back bowl appearances would be a tremendous accomplishment. Mason needs to win at least 1 of 3 to avoid a 4-8 season, and Kentucky is as beatable as any team in the SEC right now.
Shurmur’s TD-INT ratio is absolutely tremendous at nearly 3-1, especially considering the offensive line he plays behind. He hasn’t been the most accurate quarterback in the SEC, but he’s a very bright spot within a fairly bleak roster this season.
He’s good enough to add 2 or 3 more passing TDs against Kentucky.
THE WIZARD’S PREDICTION
Score: Vanderbilt 28, Kentucky 27
Flip a coin in this one. Vanderbilt deserves to be a short favorite because of how poorly Kentucky has fared against the spread this year and because Kyle Shurmur has thrown for so many touchdowns. But in my opinion, putting money on this game is pure gambling, not finding and exploiting some sort of edge.
Use your money elsewhere this weekend.