KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Last weekend, Tennessee course corrected against Tennessee Tech, making football fun again while getting some help in the conference standings.
The Vols look to ride their recent wave of enthusiasm to a win over the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday.
Before I make some guesses on the game, let’s take a moment to marvel at the fact I was perfect — again PERFECT — on my five predictions from the Tennessee Tech game.
What? It doesn’t really mean anything?
Anyways, here are five predictions for Saturday’s game.
1. Can Tennessee slow down Kentucky’s ‘Wildcat’ rushing attack?
The Cats will get their yards Saturday. Stanley ‘Boom’ Williams and Benjamin Snell are simply too good. Tennessee’s run defense is also leaky at times and running out of bodies along the interior of it defensive line.
However, Kentucky is rather one-dimensional, and the stats say the ‘Cats must reach a certain plateau to win: over 200 yards on the ground.
Kentucky is 5-0 this season when its rushes for more than 200 yards, but 0-4 when it doesn’t.
Although Tennessee’s run defense ranks 83 nationally at 191.9 yards a game, the Vols have allowed more than 200 yards on the ground just twice all season (Texas A&M and Alabama).
It won’t happen Saturday either.
2. Does John Kelly break the century mark again?
Yes (and this tips an answer to a future question, too).
Kelly tallied his first-career 100-yard game against Tennessee Tech last weekend, and the Mad Man from Michigan will make it two in a row this Saturday. Kelly, who should remain the bellcow ‘back with the questionable status of Alvin Kamara, has clearly sparked Tennessee’s team, and he should go off again against a subpar Kentucky rush defense (No. 12 in the SEC).
The Wildcats allowed over 200 yards in their nail-biting loss to Georgia last weekend.
3. Will Alvin Kamara and Cam Sutton both play?
No. The key word here being both.
The two veterans practiced this week, but Butch Jones has continued to say both players are “questionable.”
Kamara, a junior running back who already leaked his intentions to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft, seems likely to play some Saturday. How much remains to be seen, as Kelly is totally capable of shouldering the load while Tennessee eases AK back from a knee injury.
As for Sutton, there’s been optimism on the cornerback’s availability, but the senior still seems like he’s a week away.
Give that ankle another seven days to rest and recover and then Sutton can make his valiant return on Senior Day against Missouri.
4. Who wins the turnover battle?
Both teams have a propensity to gift their opponents extra possessions with turnovers. Tennessee ranks No. 115 nationally in giveaways with 20, but Kentucky is even worse. The ‘Cats rank No. 123 in turnovers with 22 and a minus-10 margin. Kentucky is last in the conference in forcing turnovers, too.
The Vols have been bad all season at protecting the football. Kentucky has been abhorrent. Advantage UT.
5. What is Tennessee’s starting OL Saturday?
With right tackle Chance Hall dealing with another knee injury, Tennessee’s offensive line is in flux again. Do the Vols move Coleman Thomas back outside to tackle and keep Jack Jones at guard? Or is it Drew Richmond Reclamation Time?
I’m going with the latter.
I think Tennessee starts Richmond at left tackle, with Jashon Robertson, Coleman Thomas and Dylan Wiesman on the interior and Brett Kendrick flipping to right tackle.