Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (5-3) at Vanderbilt Commodores (3-5)
When: Noon ET/11:00 AM CT, Saturday, November 4, 2017
Where: Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, TN
TV Coverage: ESPNU
Online stream: WatchESPN
Audio: Vanderbilt IMG Sports Network
All-time series: Vanderbilt leads, 4-1
Last meeting: Vanderbilt won, 31-30, on September 24, 2016
Odds (via oddsshark.com): Vanderbilt -10.5; over/under 53.5
Can Vanderbilt end its skid?
Vanderbilt was a bit unfortunate that its losing streak extended to five games in a 34-27 loss at South Carolina last week. The Commodores outgained the Gamecocks, if narrowly, and had a slightly better success rate for the game than a 6-2 South Carolina team.
But the Commodores’ November schedule eases up after a brutal six-game stretch. This will be Vanderbilt’s first home game against a team ranked outside the top two in the country since September 16. Remember that? Vanderbilt beat Kansas State, 14-7, in Nashville and just missed being ranked in the Top 25 the next week. The Commodores haven’t won since.
Vanderbilt has shown it can handle Western Kentucky-like opponents
It’s been long since forgotten, but Vanderbilt opened its season by thrashing Middle Tennessee by a score of 28-6.
Western Kentucky is a better team than Middle Tennessee, but not by much. While the Hilltoppers are 5-3 on the season, those wins have come against an FCS team (Eastern Kentucky) and teams ranked 121 (Ball State), 128 (UTEP), 124 (Charlotte), and 122 (Old Dominion.) In their lone game against a Power 5 opponent, they lost to 2-6 Illinois by a score of 20-7. Oh, and they beat winless UTEP by a single point.
In other words, this is a team Vanderbilt should beat. The Commodores have played Western Kentucky close in each of the last two seasons — a two-point loss in Nashville to open 2015, and an overtime win in Bowling Green last season — but those games were against a significantly better squad than what Western is fielding this season.
There’s still time to turn the season around
Vanderbilt was left for dead last November, with a 4-6 record entering a final stretch against Ole Miss and Tennessee. The Commodores won both of those games and made a trip to the Independence Bowl.
This season could play out similarly; this game starts a three-game home stretch followed by games against Kentucky and Missouri, with a trip to fading Tennessee to close the season. There’s still plenty of time to make another bowl run, but there’s really no path to a bowl game if the Commodores can’t handle this one.