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Know your opponent: A look at Tennessee’s 4 biggest playmakers

These five guys could decide the outcome of Kentucky vs. Tennessee.

NCAA Football: Charlotte at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

A new week means another opponent to scout for the Kentucky Wildcats.

This week, the Cats will travel down I-75 to take on the Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville. A win would be Kentucky's first win on the road against the Vols since 1980.

Despite Tennessee sitting at 4-5 and only having one SEC victory since the end of the 2016 season it will not be easy for the Wildcats on the road against a Vols team that has improved under first-year Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt.

Here’s a look at four biggest playmakers for the Vols.

Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano: It’s hard to blame Jarrett Guarantano for the Vols offensive woes this season. The sophomore signal caller has had a respectable season. He’s thrown for 1,571 yards with nine touchdowns to only two interceptions.

Despite being sacked seven times by the Wildcats in the Vols’ loss in Lexington last year, Guarantano still had a solid game, throwing for 242 yards with a 78.3 completion percentage. Gaurantano’s best performance this season came in Tennessee’s road win against Auburn, where he took home SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors thanks to throwing for 328 yards and two touchdowns against an Auburn team that ranks 13th in the nation in points allowed per game.

The Kentucky defense will need to force Guarantano into some bad decisions in order slow him down this weekend.

The wide receivers : Kentucky’s top cornerback called Tennessee’s receiving core the most physical group that the Cats will face all season. The Vols are loaded at receiver and have a quarterback who hits them accurately. They have three talented receivers in Josh Palmer, Marquez Callaway, and Jauan Jennings.

Palmer (414) and Callaway (402) are both over 400 yards this season, and Jennings is above 300 with 335 but leads the group with three touchdowns. Each of them poses big-play threats and will be essential to lock down for Kentucky to win.

Defensive Lineman Kyle Phillips: Senior defensive end Kyle Phillips is one of the heartbeats of this Tennessee football team. Phillips, a former five-star recruit, has three sacks this season, along with 37 total tackles, an interception that he returned for a touchdown against Alabama, three pass deflections, a fumble, and a forced fumble.

Phillips was named the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week back on October 15th when the Vols took down Auburn. That week, Phillips had nine total tackles, a forced fumble, and half a sack.

The Cats struggled last week to protect Terry Wilson against a Georgia defense that ranked last in the conference in sacks. Phillips has a chance to be a matchup nightmare for Kentucky.

Defensive back Bryce Thompson: Freshman defensive back Bryce Thompson has been a ballhawk for the Vols this season. Thompson has three picks, which is tied with a handful of players for second-most in the SEC. Thompson had averaged 23.6 yards per interception return and took one of them back for a touchdown.

Wilson needs to be sure to know where Thompson is at all times to avoid costly turnovers.

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