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Gamethread: Kentucky at Tennessee

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The Cats look to make history today at Neyland Stadium

Kentucky v Missouri Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

It’s been a while since we’ve not had to describe a game as the most important in Mark Stoops’ career. And while today is a critical one for Kentucky, particularly if they wish to be part of the discussion for the SEC East title, I don’t think there is as much frantic pressure from the fanbase as in the last few weeks.

That said, I don’t think anyone thought there was a ghost of a chance for UK to win this game at the start of the season. And while Vegas seems to be holding onto that opinion with a vengeance - the current spread is Tennessee by 14 points - more than a few analysts have said the Cats have a decent shot at pulling off a W today.

True story: I was in New York this week for Accessories market. (When not writing for ASoB, I’m a merchandise planner for a regional department store chain.) The industry has slowly but surely been developing jewelry for sports fans, because they’ve finally realized women like sports too! While at Carolee, who recently launched the brand 1st and Gorgeous, I discovered the national sales manager is a rabid Tennessee fan. As we discussed the weirdness that is the SEC East this season, and he blasted UT’s OC Mike DeBord, he told me he was really worried about beating Kentucky. When I expressed my surprise, he proceeded to tell me in great detail how impressive our RBs have been (he really loves Benny Snell), and how much our defense has turned around under HCMS’s direction. I asked him if he thought UT would win. He paused, shook his head and said he just didn’t know.

Why am I sharing this story? Because it shows just how much perceptions have changed about this team.

But at the end of the day, it’s not so much our perceptions that matter as the team’s. And from what we’ve heard this week, it’s clear the Cats see this game as a game they can win, should win, and must win. They aren’t happy to just go bowling, they want more. That Georgia loss hurt, and they plan to take out all their angst on anything wearing PMS 151, aka Tennessee Orange.

What do the Cats have to do today to get the W?

  • Implement our will against the Vols’ defense. Grind them down with the run game, but don’t be afraid to pass when the opportunity arises.
  • Disrupt UT’s offense. I like Josh Dobbs but 60% completed passes isn’t exactly setting the world on fire for accuracy. If the Cats can contain him effectively, it takes a key element out of UT’s skill set.
  • Protect Stephen Johnson. UT’s defense, particularly Derick Barnett, will be looking to knock him out on every possession. The O-Line can’t let that happen.
  • Make every possession count. ‘Nuff said.

Kickoff is at noon EST on the SEC Network. Until then, Go Big Blue!