KNOXVILLE, Tenn. —Tennessee and Kentucky will clash at Neyland Stadium with both teams’ season in the balance, each hoping to stay in contention for the SEC East Division crown.
Here’s a look at how the position groups for the Wildcats (5-4, 4-3 SEC) and Vols (6-3, 2-3) compare heading into the noon matchup:
Tennessee: Senior captain Josh Dobbs is coming off a most efficient outing in the 55-0 rout of Tennessee Tech, a 12-of-13 passing performance that featured three TD throws before he was removed in the second quarter.
Kentucky: JUCO transfer Stephen Johnson has led UK to five wins in the past seven games and throws a good deep ball, but he’s a bit slight at 6-2, 183 and has had ball security issues.
Tennessee: Sophomore John Kelly has infused life and energy into the offense, as much with his positive attitude as his hard-charging run style. Alvin Kamara could return from a knee injury and add spark. Freshman Carlin Fils-aime is a capable though not yet dynamic tailback.
Kentucky: Stanley “Boom” Williams is a 5-9, 196-pounder who has averaged 7 yards per carry over the course of his career and stands No. 7 on UK’s all-time rush list. Bennie Snell is a powerful freshman workhorse back (5-10, 220) who can run out of conventional formations as well as the “Wildcat.” He leads the SEC with 10 rushing TDs and had 114 yards vs. Georgia and 192 in a win over Missouri.
RECEIVER & TIGHT ENDS
Tennessee: Junior Josh Malone reminded Vols fans he was still on the team after with more than 100 yards receiving in the blowout win after disappearing most of October. Jauan Jennings made a flashy one-handed grab, and freshman Tyler Byrd continued to shine.
Kentucky: Garett Johnson leads the Cats with 27 catches, running mostly under routes. Jeff Badet is the deep threat, averaging 24.1 yards per catch. Tight end C.J. Conrad had all three of his TD catches come against New Mexico State, and for some reason Johnson tends to overthrow him.
Kentucky: The Wildcats have an experience, cohesive unit filled with upperclassmen. Senior center Jon Toth (6-5, 31) is an NFL prospect and the most accomplished of the group. Junior right tackle Kyle Meadows is a road grader, and left guard Nick Haynes (6-3, 316) brings power.
Tennessee: The Vols could be looking at their seventh different starting line combination, depending on the status of right tackle Chance Hall. Senior Dylan Wiesman will be at center or guard, depending on whether Hall plays. UT needs 5-star Drew Richmond to man up and live up to his billing.
Kentucky: Senior Courtney Miggins (6-5, 285) sets the end and he’s the Wildcats’ best up front. UK will swap Junior Naquez Pringle and Matt Elam (6-7, 360) at nose guard.
Tennessee: The Vols have an elite end in Derek Barnett and senior Corey Vereen is the bookend, but there is no legit defensive tackle next to starter Kendal Vickers. Ends Kyle Phillips and LaTroy Lewis — both sub-260 — have volunteer to play inside.
Kentucky: Sophomore Denzil Ware is a bit of a hybrid, a 255-pounder that will often walk up and play on the defensive line. Sophomore middle linebacker Jordan Jones (6-2, 220) has been an active playmaker.
Tennessee: Sophomore Darrin Kirkland Jr. is getting close to 100 percent and ready to make plays again. Elliott Berry and Colton Jumper are former backups competing for snaps at weak side linebacker.
Kentucky: Sophomore strong safety Mike Edwards (6-0, 200) might be the Cats’ defensive MVP and bears watching. Corners Derrick Baity (6-3, 183) and Chis Westry (6-4, 194) are oversized and create problems.
Tennessee: The Vols could be getting preseason All-SEC cornerback and Malik Foreman back, but they could be young at free safety with freshman Nigel Warrior. Strong safetyTodd Kelly Jr. has been a stabilizing force.
Kentucky: Kicker Austin MacGinnis has hit 10 of 13 field goals this season, but punter Grant McKinniss is averaging just 39.6 yards per punt this season. Charles Walker is averaging 12 yards per punt return. Jeff Badet has averaged 23.7 yards per kick return.
Tennessee: Kicker Aaron Medley has connected on 8-of-11 field goals, and punter Trevor Daniel is averaging 44.5 yards per punt. Alvin Kamara could be back for punt returns, but Evan Berry is out for the season. Freshmen Marquez Callaway and Tyler Byrd could step into those roles.