Game Day Preview: What you need to know about Kentucky-Tennessee
It was a week full of adjustments and regrouping for Mark Stoops and his Kentucky Wildcats. Thoughts of last week’s 42-16 drubbing at the hands of Mississippi State haunted their minds all week. They’ve craved redemption since the final seconds ticked away in Starkville, and now that opportunity has come. The Wildcats will return to Commonwealth Stadium Saturday where they will take on Tennessee.
Here’s what else you need to know about Saturday’s game:
Tennessee (3-4, 1-3 SEC) at Kentucky (4-3, 2-3 SEC)
Kickoff: Sat, Oct. 31, 7:30 p.m. ET (SEC Network)
Weather: 62 degrees, 20 percent chance of rain (Weather.com)
Line: Tennessee -9, per BOVADA
By the numbers
1 – This will be the first time Tennessee and Kentucky square off in the month of October since 1909. These two teams are accustomed to playing each other at the end of the season, but Louisville is now filling that role for the Wildcats for the next few years.
4- The number of yards junior quarterback Patrick Towles needs to reach 5,000 total yards in his career. To date, Towles has 4,681 career passing yards, including 1,730 this season. When he eclipses the 5,000 total mark, Towles will be the sixth player in Kentucky history to reach the milestone. The other Wildcats to do so are Jared Lorenzen, Andre Woodson, Tim Couch, Mike Hartline and Bill Ransdell.
77- The number of times Kentucky has lost to Tennessee in the all-time series since 1893. The two teams have met 110 total times, and Tennessee has a 36-14-3 advantage in Lexington.
Storylines to watch
Will Kentucky bounce back?
The Wildcats have lost their last two games and are winless since Oct. 3, when they beat Eastern Kentucky. The loss against Mississippi State was Kentucky’s worst of the season by far, as it was the only game that was decided by more than eight points all season. The last time the Wildcats and Vols matched up, Tennessee took care of Kentucky handily with a 50-16 win in Knoxville. A win Saturday would keep the Wildcats away from a three-game losing streak and would also make them just one win shy of becoming bowl eligible. They’re in need of a strong outing and with the home crowd behind them, the Wildcats should be competitive.
How will the Wildcats handle Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs?
Dak Prescott ran all over Kentucky last week in Starkville, accounting for all six of Mississippi State’s touchdowns. Prescott had three rushing and three passing touchdowns against a Kentucky defense that had no solution for his play. Like Prescott, Dobbs is a mobile quarterback who can beat you both on the ground and through the air. The junior has five rushing touchdowns and nine passing. He averages 55.3 rushing and 181.7 passing yards per game.
Is Matt Elam feeling more confident?
Elam, the sophomore defensive tackle, was thrust into a starting role last week after it was announced that Melvin Lewis fractured his fibula and is done for the year. Earlier this week, the Lexington Herald-Leader’s Jen Smith wrote about Elam and his thoughts on his first career start last week. As you’ll see in Smith’s story, Elam told the media that he struggled with criticism from fans. Tennessee could be a tough test for someone who is still getting his feet wet, but it shouldn’t be any more difficult than Mississippi State was. Elam has 15 total tackles this season, five more than he had all of last year as a freshman.
Can the Wildcats limit Tennessee’s running backs?
On the SEC teleconference Wednesday, Kentucky coach Mark Stoops spoke very highly of Tennessee running backs Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara. Hurd has 664 rushing yards for the year and eight touchdowns, while Kamara has 276 and three rushing touchdowns. This duo, coupled with Dobbs, could present quite the challenge for Kentucky if the Wildcats play the way they did against Mississippi State. If Kentucky can limit the production of those three players, it has a chance at the upset.
Prediction: Tennessee 28, Kentucky 21
As badly as Kentucky needs to bounce back from some emotional losses, so does Tennessee. The Vols have lost three of their last four and own just one conference win. But the three conference losses have been at the hands of Florida, Arkansas and Alabama — three teams that certainly have prepared the Vols for the Wildcats. Josh Dobbs is playing very well and the Kentucky defense still has its kinks to work through.