While I can partly get the Florida Gators mastery of Kentucky football over the years, the Tennessee Volunteers ownership of the Wildcats is far more frustrating and enraging to me. If there is a team that Kentucky seems jinxed by, it has to be the Volunteers.
The 2011 game is a distant memory as now and it seems like even more of a fluke as the Wildcats have not even sniffed a close game against the Vols since. It's almost as if that puke orange color is the Wildcat's kryptonite as things have not gone well on the field since then.
The Vols are coming off back to back nine win seasons and that has not been enough to keep Butch Jones off the semi-hot seat in Knoxville. The expectations are high yet again as the Vols are pretty much a top twenty team in every poll. The Vols are loaded with talent but a lot of it is unproven.
The big question is at quarterback. Josh Dobbs is gone and there is a battle in Knoxville to replace him. Quentin Dormady appears to have the edge and is a prototypical pro style quarterback at 6'4 and 216. However, redshirt Freshman, Jarrett Guarantono was the nation's top dual threat QB in the 2016 class and provides more flash and athleticism.
Dobbs was also the leading rusher for the Vols last season and it looks as if John Kelly will be the leading tailback by default as there is not a lot of proven depth on this roster. Kelly averaged 6.4 yards per carry and had 630 yards on the year. He also found the end zone 6 times on the ground. Jalen Hurd and Alvin Camara are departed so the depth will come from little used Carlin Fils-Aime or true freshman Ty Chandler.
No matter who else carries the ball for the Vols, they will have the benefit of a much-improved line. The number one player in the 2017 class, Trey Smith, enrolled early and dominated the Spring practice, and he will have his name marked in ink on the depth chart for at least three years.
The receiving corps was depleted as well with Josh Malone, Jason Croom, and Kamara leaving. The only known receiving threat really is Jauan Jennings and TE Ethan Wolf. Jennings was good for 580 yards and 7 TDs but other than that, the rest of the receivers are largely unknown. There is talent, but there is pressure on it to develop.
The Vols are putting a lot of their hope on the defensive line in Jonathan Kongbo and several players that missed the Spring game with an injury. If players like Kendall Vickers and Shy Tuttle can recover, the Vols will be alright here. The linebacking corps will also get a big boost if MLB Darrin Kirkland is back healthy to boost this defense. The defensive backfield is loaded with Todd Kelly Jr and Nigel Warrior. Both have the pedigree as they are the legacies of former first round NFL Draft picks.
While this is a team that the Vols fans expect to win the SEC East, they probably will not as they will probably take their lumps early with road games against Florida and Alabama on the schedule before they travel to Lexington. There is a lot of pressure on new offensive coordinator Larry Scott to have this team running on all cycles in game one and there are too many holes on the team to expect that.
While the Vols probably will not win the East, they do have the talent to do so. And while this offense will struggle early in the season, they should be hitting on all cylinders when they invade Kroger Field.
It's a little confusing why Kentucky has played Florida better under Stoops than the Vols and I already made my one crazy pick of the year by having the Wildcats knock off the Gators so, unfortunately, I have to go with the puke Orange in this game and hope that I am wrong. If this game was earlier in the season, I would probably go for the upset but I can’t see the Vols not clicking this late in the season. Let's call it 31-21 for the bad guys.