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Kentucky Football Travels to Knoxville

After the Georgia debacle the Wildcats face Tennessee on the road. Many in the BBN believe the Cats can beat the Vols. Hope should always spring eternal, but history and facts should temper such optimism.

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Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

After the Georgia debacle the Kentucky Wildcats face the Tennessee Volunteers on the road this Saturday at 4 ET. Many in the BBN believe the Cats can beat the Vols. Hope should always spring eternal, but history and facts should temper such optimism.

Here's some facts we have to face:

  • Tennessee did not play this past weekend. While Kentucky was getting their collective rear-ends handed to them, the Volunteers had the weekend off, giving them plenty of time to concentrate on the upcoming opponent which just happens to be Kentucky.
  • The last time Kentucky beat Tennessee in Neyland Stadium was a 17-12 win in 1984! For those from Rio Linda, CA, none of Kentucky's players were even born. The boys in blue sang "My Old Kentucky Home" to the small group of Kentucky fans after the game. Jerry Claiborne's team went on to beat Wisconsin 20-19 in the Hall of Fame Bowl
  • Scores down in Knoxville since 1984:

1986 - UT 28 UK 9

1988 - UT 28 UK 24

1990 - UT 42 UK 28

1992 - UT 34 UK 13

1994 - UT 52 UK 0

1996 - UT 56 UK 10

1998 - UT 59 UK 21

2000 - UT 59 UK 20

2002 - UT 24 UK 0

2004 - UT 37 UK 31

2006 - UT 17 UK 12

2008 - UT 28 UK 10

2010 - UT 24 UK 14

2012 - UT 37 UK 17

  • Jerry Claiborne's record against Tennessee was 1-7. Bill Curry followed with a 0-6 record against the Vols. Hal Mumme went 0-4, Guy Morris was 0-3, Rich Brooks? 0-7. Joker Phillips beat UT in Lexington with a wide receiver (Matt Roark) at quarterback 10-7, but was 1-2 overall against the fighting Rocky Tops. As you know, first edition Stoops lost 27-13 last year.
  • Since at least Phil Fulmer's last year (2008), Tennessee has out-recruited Kentucky, according to the Rivals rankings.

2008 - UT (Phil Fulmer) #35 (3.06 Avg *) UK (Rich Brooks) #57 (2.50)

2009 - UT (Lane Kiffin) #10 (3.62) UK (Brooks) #41 (2.69)

2010 - UT (Derek Dooley) #9 (3.44) UK (Joker Phillips) #50 (2.77)

2011 - UT (Dooley) #13 (3.41) UK (Phillips) #62 (2.96)

2012 - UT (Dooley) #17 (3.38) UK (Phillips) #63 (2.88)

2013 - UT (Butch Jones) #21 (3.19) UK (Mark Stoops) #29 (3.05)

2014 - UT (Jones) #5 (3.65) UK (Stoops) #17 (3.32)

I hope you get a feeling for just how deep the hole was/is that Stoops has to climb out of when it comes to Tennessee.

Through the Mississippi State game, most of us felt that the Wildcats were improving. I'm not so sure Tennessee fans felt the same since UT had not yet won an SEC game. After LSU, I don't think Kentucky has gotten worse, but the level of competition simply improved. Meanwhile, most observers have felt that UT has improved with each passing game. Yet, if you look at common opponents, it is hard to tell the difference between the two teams.

Common Opponents:

Florida: Kentucky lost in Gainesville in 3 overtimes 36-30. Tennessee lost at home 10-9.

South Carolina: The Cats beat the Gamecocks in Lexington 45-38. Tennessee beat the Gamecocks in Columbia 45-42 in OT.

Georgia: You remember...Georgia took us down 63-31 in Lexington. Tennessee went to Gainesville, Ga and lost 35-32

Not much to give an indication if UT and UK match-up well other than the comparable games against the Georgia Bulldogs. Based on that game, the Vols look to be the better team.

Statistically, here's how they match up:

Total Offense (ypg): UK 403.3 (65th) UT 367.1 (94th)

Rushing (ypg): UK 163. (62nd) UT 131.4 (99th)

Passing (ypg): UK 243.0 (54th) UT 235.7 (61st)

Total Defense: UT 375.0 (52nd) UK 390.5 (61st)

Rushing (ypg): UT 172.0 (77th) UK 200.2 (97th)

Passing (ypg): UK 190.3 (19th) UT 203.0 (32nd)

Scoring Offense (ppg): UK 29.4 (66th) UT 26.2 (81st)

Scoring Defense (ppg): UT 25.0 (51st) UK 26.1 (76th)

While there's no great difference here, Tennessee has played the toughest schedule in the country, according to Jeff Sagarin,  while Kentucky has played the 20th toughest. You can compare for yourself and agree or disagree. What I find somewhat amazing is how high UK's numbers still are considering we've lost our last four games.

Tenn Sched

Tennessee's last three games were against Ole Miss (3-34) in Oxford, Alabama (20-31) in Knoxville and South Carolina (45-42) on the road for a 1-2 record. Kentucky's last three games were against Mississippi St. (31-45) in Lexington, Missouri (10-20) in Columbia and Georgia (31-63) at home for a 0-3 record.

When you drill down to how each team has done compared to their opponents, here's what you get:

Tenn 2

Tenn 3

Tenn 4

Tenn 5

Since Joey Worley's injury, Joshua Dobbs has more than adequately filled Worley's shoes. He is far more mobile and gives the Vols a dimension they've not had until he was put into the line-up.  As a passer, he's not all that great, but he can hurt you. So far he's completing 58.3% and is averaging 246.5 yards per game over his three game that he's played in. Dobb's has thrown for 3 touchdowns and has another 4 on the ground. He's only started two games, against South Carolina and Alabama.

Jalen Hurd is Tennessee's primary ball carrier averaging 4.5 yards per carry (134 for a net of 598 yards), but Dobbs is averaging 5.6 ypg and leads UT in rushing yards per game (120.5)

Last year, Dobbs hit Kentucky with two touchdowns and 199 yards on 14 of 23 attempts as a red shirt freshman. Since he's already torched the Cats, don't expect him to suffer any jitters against Kentucky's defense.

I'll let everyone decide on his/her own if Kentucky has a shot at winning. I'll just say that I am not optimistic. You can see what Bleacher Report has to say in their game preview.

Looking forward to Louisville

The news came out this week that Louisville's starting quarterback, Will Gardner, is down and out for the rest of the season due to a knee injury from last week's game against Boston College. This development could very well change Kentucky's chances of getting that sixth win. Freshman Reggie Bonnafon will start in Gardner's stead.

Bonnafon has started in three games and played in seven. He has a net gain of 138 yards in 51 carries for an average of 2.7 yards per carry. Of course those numbers include sacks. He has a long run of 36 yards to his credit. He's very mobile and is the kind of QB that tends to give the Kentucky run defense fits. As a passer, his numbers are 51-92-1 for 662 yards and 4 touchdowns. His longest pass was for 45 yards. His efficiency rating is 128.1 which is significantly lower than Gardner's 136.1.