Kentucky football hosts Tennessee on Saturday, looking to rebound after laying a dud in Starkville a week ago against Mississippi State. The Wildcats (5-2, 2-2 SEC) have yet to put together a complete game this season, and while they started 5-1 for the first time since 2014, the memories of that season — a 6-game losing streak to end the season — are still fresh.
Here are the SEC Country team’s predictions for Kentucky’s game against Tenessee.
Joe Mussatto: 2-2 in Week 8, 22-11 overall
Kyle Tucker: 2-2 in Week 8, 18-15 overall
Kentucky team rushing yards: 200.5
Joe Mussatto: Under. Kentucky has quite a bit to figure out before it rushes for 200 yards again. And it’s not just figuring things out. The Cats don’t have the same personnel that spurred them to one of the best rushing attacks in the SEC a year ago. Kentucky averaged 234 rushing yards per game last year. This year? Just 135. But, if anything could get the ground game of old up and running, it’d be Tennessee’s defense. The Vols are second-to-last in the SEC, giving up 247 rushing yards per game. Benny Snell should have a good game, but it’s hard to envision the Cats racking up 200 yards on the ground.
Kyle Tucker: Under. The Cats can’t seem to get the running game going, only eclipsing 200 yards once this season (against Eastern Kentucky). Three of the last four weeks, UK has rushed for 120 yards or fewer. Yes, I realize the Vols rank 123rd nationally in run defense, but that’s skewed a bit by 535 yards they gave up to Georgia Tech’s option offense in Week 1. Georgia and Alabama ran all over UT, too, but Florida and South Carolina failed to hit 200.
Tennessee team rushing yards: 175.5
Joe Mussatto: Under. Just when things can’t get worse for the Vols, star running back John Kelly was cited Tuesday night when police found marijuana in his car. He has been suspended for this game, which is a huge boost to Kentucky. He’s one of the best backs in the conference and one of Tennessee’ only offensive bright spots. The Cats’ run defense was gashed and exposed at Mississippi State, but Tennessee doesn’t pose the same threat as the Bulldogs did, especially with Kelly out.
Kyle Tucker: (Way) under. The Vols have only rushed for more than 160 yards once this season and now they’ll be without leading rusher John Kelly, who was suspended after a marijuana citation.
Total points scored: 46
Joe Mussatto: Over. Pitting the 11th-ranked scoring offense in the SEC (Kentucky) against the last-ranked scoring offense (Tennessee) doesn’t exactly point toward a lot of points. But even if you combine the two teams’ lowly points per game average, you get to 45. Neither offense is explosive, but neither defense is close to dominant. Kentucky has only scored more than 24 points one time this year. Tennessee hasn’t scored an offensive touchdown in more than a month. So I’ll inexplicably pick against that info and say that both offenses at least figure a few things out.
Kyle Tucker: Under. Tennesseee hasn’t scored an offensive touchdown in a month and has scored 16 total points the last three games. Kentucky has scored 30-plus only once all season and was held to just 7 points in Starkville last week.
Kentucky-Tennessee spread, game prediction
Kentucky (-4) vs. Tennessee
Joe Mussatto: Kentucky has beaten Tennessee just once since 1984, but when have the Vols been this bad? A win against Tennessee, no matter how bad the Vols are, will get Kentucky back on track after an embarrassing loss at Mississippi State. Kentucky 30, Tennessee 24.
Kyle Tucker: If ever the Wildcats were set up to record just their second win against the Vols since 1984, this is it. Butch Jones is on the hot seat, Tennessee is a dumpster fire and Kentucky absolutely has to seize this opportunity. Kentucky 24, Tennessee 17.