Kentucky and Tennessee face off on Saturday for the 115th time.
LEXINGTON – November 8, 2019 – Bradley Charles – Bluegrass Sports Nation
On Saturday, the Kentucky Wildcats (4-4, 2-4 SEC) host the Tennessee Volunteers (4-5, 2-3 SEC) at Kroger Field. Currently, ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) gives Kentucky just over a 57% chance to defeat the Vols.
Overall Analysis of Kentucky:
The Wildcats need to win two of their next four games to be bowl-eligible. Listed below is the remainder of Kentucky’s schedule with their chances to win the game according to the FPI.
Vs Tennessee, November 9th – 57.2%
At Vanderbilt, November 16th – 74.9%
Vs Tennessee Martin, November 23rd – 96.1%
Vs Louisville, November 30th – 68.6%
Based on those percentages, Kentucky has just over a 28% chance of sweeping the remainder of their regular season schedule. This would give the Cats a five-game win streak and an 8-4 regular season record. But either way, Kentucky is almost assured to be bowl-eligible and is well positioned to finish the season with at least seven wins.
The Kentucky Offense:
All signs point towards Lynn Bowden getting his fourth consecutive start at quarterback for the Cats. Bowden ranks 10th in school history in career all-purpose yards with 3,770; Bowden ranks fifth in school history for all-purpose yards for players before their senior season. Nationally, Bowden ranks fifth in all-purpose yards and leads the SEC with an average of nearly 150 yards per game.
It comes as no surprise that Kentucky ranks fourth in the conference in time of possession. This is due to a number of factors including poor weather conditions at times, the various injuries to the quarterback position, and Stoops’ (old-school) run first mentality.
Kentucky has three players that rank highly in the SEC in rushing yards per game; Lynn Bowden ranks ninth, A.J. Rose ranks 14th, and Kavosiey Smoke ranks 22nd.
The Kentucky Defense:
With Mark Stoops specializing in defense, it’s no surprise that the Wildcat defense has had a tremendous season; this can be showcased by the units’ impressive stats.
Kentucky has held three consecutive SEC opponents to 305 yards of total offense or less for the first time since the 1979 season. During the last three weeks, UK allowed 16 points per game, tied for 13th in the nation in scoring defense for the month of October.
The Wildcat defense has allowed 34 points or less in 22 straight games, the longest such streak in the nation; this is Kentucky’s longest such streak since a 45-game streak from 1976-1980.
The Wildcat pass defense has been particularly impressive this season allowing just four passing touchdowns, which is tied for first in the FBS. Also, the Cats allow just 180.5 passing yards per game which ranks 14th nationally and third in the SEC.
Defensive end Calvin Taylor ranks fifth in the SEC in sacks per game, while free safety Yusuf Corker and linebacker DeAndre Square each rank in the top 15 in the SEC in tackles per game.
Despite a slow start to the season, Tennessee has seemingly found their footing as of late. The Volunteers have won three of their last four games with double digit victories over Mississippi State, South Carolina, and UAB to go along with a 35-13 loss at Alabama.
The Tennessee offense is averaging almost 25 points per game while also averaging nearly 350 yards of total offense per game. The Volunteers are converting over 41% of the time on third down, a relatively high percentage.
Three quarterbacks have seen significant time for Tennessee this season. However, junior Jarrett Guarantano has seen the majority of the work. On the season, Guarantano has thrown for 1,287 passing yards to go along with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions.
On Monday, Mark Stoops was asked if his team had to prepare differently for each Tennessee quarterback; Stoops’ general comment was that they did not because Tennessee’s play-calls remained similar no matter who was playing quarterback.
The Tennessee rushing attack is led by junior running back Ty Chandler. On the season, Chandler is averaging 5.1 yards per carry, with an average of 4.5 yards per carry in conference play. Fellow running backs Tim Jordan and Eric Gray have also seen extensive work for the Volunteers.
In the passing game, wide receiver Jauan Jennings has totaled 47 receptions for 722 yards and seven touchdowns. Fellow wide receiver Marquez Callaway also plays a big role in the Vols passing attack; Calloway is averaging 21.3 yards per reception which ranks 11th nationally.
The Volunteer defense is allowing just over 24 points per game while allowing 351 total yards of offense per game.
Tennessee ranks third nationally with 13 interceptions this season; Nigel Warrior and Bryce Thompson are tied for the team-high in interceptions with three each. Linebacker Darrell Taylor has had a tremendous season for the Vols as he’s recorded six of the team’s 23 sacks.
As an interesting side-note, The Volunteers average over 21 yards per punt return, which ranks second in the nation. However, that should be nullified by Kentucky punter Max Duffy who is Kentucky’s all-time leading punter at 46.33 yards per kick.
There have been 114 total games between the Cats and the Vols which is the third-most played rivalry in SEC history. The two teams have played annually since 1919 with one exception, 1943, which was a war year, (neither school had a team). Tennessee leads the all-time series 80-25-9 with a 37-15-3 record in Lexington.
Kentucky’s largest victory against Tennessee came in 1893 when the Cats defeated the Vols 56-0 in Knoxville; Tennessee’s largest victory came in a 52-0 win in 1994 in Knoxville.
The game is scheduled to start at 7:30 and will air on the SEC Network. Kentucky is 4-2 this season in games that are aired on the SEC Network; 31-20 in Stoops’ tenure. It promises to be an entertaining game at Kroger field as each team is fighting to keep their bowl hopes alive.