Kentucky Football: Taking a look at Rocky Top

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Mark Stoops and Butch Jones were hired into similar situations where talent just didn't seem to get developed once it arrived on campus. Both have had difficulty changing a culture of accepting defeat as both teams have lost winnable games. Saturday ends two very frustrating seasons. Only one team will walk off the field on a positive note. I hope it is the Kentucky Wildcats.

Butch Jones put forth as one of his preseason goals the desire to play in a bowl game at the end of the season. I went to bed Saturday night believing that UK would have the opportunity to prevent that from happening. Sunday, I saw the score of the Vandy-UT game and wondered how that could've happened. Tennessee had Vandy locked down and then, BOOM!, the Vols found a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. For many, many years that way of losing belonged almost exclusively to Kentucky.

Tennessee actually has the talent to have had a better season than what they have. Kentucky did not and does not have the same level of talent, but the Cats have an opportunity to end the season on a high note in spite of the fact that Raymond Sanders and Demarco Robinson won't be playing due to suspensions.

Tennessee's recruiting since 2009 (Current Red Shirt Seniors):

2009 - Rivals Ranking #10 and star average of 3.62

2010 - #9 and average stars of 3.44

2011 - #13 - 3.41 average stars

2012 - #17 - 3.38 average stars

2013 - #21 - 3.19 average star in Butch Jones's first class

2014 - #2 currently - current average star rating is 3.47

Like Stoops, Jones is rebuilding his program.

UK's recruiting since 2009:

2009 - #41 - 2.69 average stars

2010 - #50 - 2.77 average stars

2011 - #61 - 2.96 average stars

2012 - #62 - 2.88 average stars

2013 - #29 - 3.05 average stars

2014 - #8 currently - current average star rating is 3.28

While UK has made a more dramatic improvement with the 2013 and 2014 classes, Tennessee is still ahead of us. Before the arrival of both new coaches, you can tell from the ratings that they took over programs that was severely lacking in player development.

The Vols opened the season with a win over Austin Peay (45-0) and followed that up with a win over Western Kentucky (52-20). After losing to Oregon 59-14 in Eugene, the wheels came off Ol' Smokey even though they beat South Alabama. They haven't won since, but came close a couple of times. One of those close losses was against Georgia. We all saw how Georgia treated Kentucky and that should tell you why Tennessee opened as a four point favorite.

So, how do we stack up in the Hapless Bowl game?

Kentucky - Tennessee

Rushing Offense: 148.7 (83) - 185.7 (50)

Passing Offense: 187.9 (97) - 161.8 (110)

Passing Efficiency: 124.77 (81) - 102.03 (114)

Yards per Completion: 11.55 (79) - 10.06 (120)

Red Zone Offense: 81.3% (71) - 80.5% (75)

Scoring Offense: 21.1 (103) - 23.5 (92)

Total Offense: 336.6 (108) - 347.5 (102)

Tackles for Loss Allowed: 7.18 (107) - 5.18 (35)

Sacks Allowed: 2.91 (110) - 1.27 (25)

Time of possession: 27 (107) - 29 (88)

3rd Down Conv. %: 30.5% (116) - 34.5% (100)

4th Down Conv. %: 63.0% (20) - 45.5% (77)

First Downs: 189 (111) - 201 (101)

As you can see, both teams don't have much in the way of offense. Tennessee will be forced to defend the pass while Kentucky will have to defend on the ground. Let's see if these teams are capable on defense. Kentucky's offensive line play will be paramount in winning this game.

Defense

Rushing Defense: 195.5 (96) - 213.5 (103)

Passing Defense: 232.6 (74) - 207.2 (25)

Scoring Defense: 31.5 (91) - 30.4 (84)

Passing Efficiency Defense: 154.62 (111) - 123.81 (55)

Passes Intercepted: 2 (122) - 14 (22)

Tackles for Loss: 4.4 (115) - 5.0 (106)

Sacks: 2.00 (62) - 1.18 (115)

Red Zone Defense: 83.7% (73) - 73.9% (16)

Total Defense: 428.1 (90) - 420.7 (86)

3rd Down Conv. %: 44.1% (100) - 43.1% (92)

4th Down Conversion %: 68.8% (112) - 81.8% (121)

First Downs: 233 (75) - 232 (71)

Other

Turnover Margin: -0.1 (67) - +0.2 (49)

Net Punting: 36.29 (78) - 37.33 (57)

Punt Returns: 6.52 (88) - 8.93 (54)

Punt Return Defense: 5.96 (38) - 10.43 (92)

Kickoff Returns: 21.50 (59) - 23.23 (33)

Kickoff Return Defense: 19.08 (30) - 26.05 (121)

Fewest Penalties per game: 5.64 (66) - 4.73 (31)

Penalty Yards per game: 47.09 (66) - 38.18 (19)

As with the respective offenses, both teams don't have a lot in the way of defense either. Tennessee shows a statistically stronger defense. I think the Cats will have a tougher time stopping the Vol ground game while Tennessee will have an easier time stopping our passing game.

Both teams have had tough seasons and the outcome of the game may very well depend on which team is emotionally spent. I'm trying to be kind here, but I suspect that Kentucky may have some players who have quit on the season after the Vanderbilt loss. We'll see. Either way, this is a winnable game for our Cats which was not expected, by me anyway.

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