With Florida, UGA and Alabama behind them, there aren’t any monster games left on the Volunteers’ schedule. However, there are five winnable games that could propel Tennessee to its best finish since 2007.
Tennessee (3-4, 1-3 SEC) should be well versed in how to handle tough losses. They’ve had to do so after comeback wins by Oklahoma, Florida and Arkansas. In subsequent games, Tennessee is 2-1. That includes a 55-10 win over Western Carolina after the Oklahoma loss and a 38-31 win against UGA after the Vols lost to the Razorbacks.
As for Kentucky, it falls somewhere in the middle of that group. The improving Wildcats are better than Western Carolina, comparable to Arkansas and probably not as good as UGA. That will be determined next week when the Wildcats travel to Athens, Ga.
Kentucky (4-3, 2-3 SEC) has the better record in this matchup, but that is a little misleading. Tennessee has faced a much tougher schedule to this point.
Here’s what else you need to know about the Tennessee-Kentucky game:
Tennessee Volunteers (3-4, 1-3 SEC) vs. Kentucky Wildcats (4-3, 2-3 SEC)
Kickoff: Sat., Oct. 31 – 7:30 p.m. ET (SEC Network)
Weather: 57 degrees, few showers (weather.com)
Line: Tennessee -7 to -9
By the numbers
3 – That’s where Tennessee ranks in the SEC in rushing yards with 209.1 per game.
4 – That’s the number of games in which the Vols have over 200 yards rushing.
77 – The number of times Tennessee has beaten Kentucky. That’s the most of any school.
29 – That’s the number of times Tennessee has beaten Kentucky in the last 30 games between the two teams.
1944 – That’s the last time Tennessee played Kentucky and the game wasn’t held in November.
Storylines to watch
Will Corey Vereen keep living in the offensive backfield?
After posting only 2 ½ sacks in the two seasons prior, Tennessee junior defensive end Corey Vereen had two sacks against Alabama and its highly-touted offensive line. Vereen showed surprising speed off of the edge, something Kentucky will have to be mindful of. If Vereen can continue to be productive, that should help out fellow defensive end Derek Barnett on the other side of the line.
Will a lockdown corner please stand up?
All-SEC cornerback Cameron Sutton has had a fantastic season but didn’t look like his usual self against Alabama. He wasn’t bad but he wasn’t great, as Tennessee’s coaches have come to expect. The other cornerback position is still undecided. Junior college transfer Justin Martin is expected to start the game, but fellow sophomore Emmanuel Moseley will also play.
Will Tennessee’s freshman offensive linemen hold up?
Tackle Chance Hall and guard Jack Jones deserve major kudos for their play throughout most of the Alabama game. However, Hall was beaten on one pass rush that resulted in a sack and lost fumble. That fumble eliminated any chance the Vols had to win the game. It just takes one play to swing a close contest. Hall learned that last week.
Will Dobbs run or throw or both?
Tennessee’s sophomore quarterback ran for 312 yards and threw for 118 yards against UGA. He ran for only 19 yards and threw for 171 yards against Alabama. He’s a unique talent that can stretch a defense. Dobbs’ running was good and bad against ‘Bama. At times, he escaped pressure. Other times, he held onto the ball far too long.
Which Aaron Medley will show up?
Much has been made of beleaguered sophomore kicker Aaron Medley, who missed three field goals against Alabama. Tennessee coach Butch Jones said on Wednesday that Medley hadn’t missed a field goal in practice. True or not, that really doesn’t matter. Saturday does.
Prediction: Tennessee 31, Kentucky 17
Jones complimented his team’s practice habits throughout the week. That may just be coach speak, but it doesn’t seem like it. Tennessee’s football team won’t speak of moral victories, but the Alabama game should have shown it something. The Vols stood toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the nation. Kentucky has improved to the point where it can’t be overlooked, but the Vols are still the better team.