LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Many Kentucky players were in high school when the Wildcats won their last Southeastern Conference game in November 2011.
For those who were around that 10-7 victory over Tennessee has faded into memory.
There have been 17 straight league losses since the win, a frustrating string of close and lopsided defeats sandwiched around a coaching change. But the Wildcats believe they're close to putting an end to the streak.
They were oh-so-close against Florida, the triple-overtime loss at Florida two weeks ago has stoked Kentucky's hunger to finally seal the deal Saturday against Vanderbilt (1-3, 0-2). The Wildcats (2-1, 0-1) enter as 17-point favorites, a rare scenario that speaks volumes about the programs' differing fortunes but doesn't have Kentucky players thinking ahead.
After more than two years of conference futility, they know better.
"We're very hungry," Kentucky senior wide receiver DeMarco Robinson said, adding, "we're ready and trying to look for a win this week."
Beating the Commodores might also help the Wildcats exact revenge for a 40-0 trouncing here in November 2012, setting in motion the process resulting in then-Kentucky coach Joker Phillips' firing the next day and Mark Stoops' eventual hiring as his replacement.
Nothing changed during Stoops' first season as the Wildcats lost 22-6 to the Commodores last year in Nashville. Vanderbilt's fortunes have shifted since then, with Derek Mason replacing James Franklin as coach and the program enduring the growing pains that come with a new staff and young players.
The Commodores were outscored 78-10 in their first two games before rebounding to beat Massachusetts and playing South Carolina competitively in last week's loss.
Despite entering as underdogs to an improving Kentucky squad, Vanderbilt's three-game winning streak in the series by a combined 100-14 margin keeps things in perspective for the Wildcats team.
"We can't pay attention to that stuff," Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles said of the spread. "The only thing we're worried about is winning the football game, whether it's by one point or 80 points. We're just worried about us."