Well you know how the old saying goes — what a difference a week can make.
Even after getting a good night’s sleep it remains difficult to fully embrace the total transformation that Kentucky’s defense showed on Saturday night in comparison to how it looked the week prior against Ole Miss.
Fueled by their jaw-dropping six interceptions Kentucky virtually shut-out Mike Leach and his high octane offense moving the Cats record to 1-2 on the season.
Aside from the random self induced safety due to a bad snap, the Bulldogs would have been completely blanked at Kroger Field. An incredible feat when you consider the offensive reputation that Mike Leach has and the on-field success that he’s already seen since arriving in SEC.
This Kentucky team still has many unanswered questions on both sides of the ball but their 24-2 victory had to leave fans, coaches and players feeling pretty good heading into week four against Tennessee.
Kentucky’s next challenge in their ten game SEC gauntlet will require a trip to Knoxville.
The Cats will take on the Vols inside Neyland Stadium for a noon kickoff on Saturday, October 17th. The game can be viewed on the SEC Network or by tuning into iHeart radio where Tom Leach will have the call on 630 WLAP.
You could look at it from several different angles, but in my opinion, Kentucky just might be traveling to Knoxville at the perfect time. The Vols were in a slugfest on Saturday that ultimately ended up in a deflating 44-21 loss to Georgia. In the first half Tennessee looked like the real deal and was giving the Bulldogs all they wanted by leading 21-17 at the break.
However, it was all Dawgs from there on out. Georgia would go on to pummel Tennessee by a score of 27-0 in the second half. It had to have been an emotional roller coaster for Tennessee’s players as they dropped to 2-1 and walked off the field feeling anything but good about themselves.
On the flip side you could argue that Tennessee is probably equally, if not more so, excited to see Kentucky coming to town because of the sheer dominance that the Vols have held over Kentucky football. Even in these past few seasons where UK has seen overall tremendous success, Mark Stoops and his staff still haven’t cracked the code to beating Tennessee with any type of consistency.
Kentucky has dropped the last two in a row against the Vols and have still only beaten UT two times total since 1985. That stat gets harder to believe each year, but unfortunately, the Cats continue to provide painful reminders as to why the margin has been stretched so far in one direction. Last season, it was the goal-line stand of the Volunteer defense against Lynn Bowden that narrowly kept Kentucky from winning.
Currently ESPN’s match-up predictor is listing Tennessee as the favorite with a 65% chance at victory.
This would be a good game for Terry Wilson and the offense to get rolling because the Vols are giving up almost 400 yards per game to their opponents and allowing nearly 30 points per game. Despite finding themselves in the win column over the weekend the Kentucky offense is still sputtering and will likely still be missing the services of redshirt sophomore Kavosiey Smoke who is battling a rib injury.
Wilson will need to make a concentrated effort to get his wide-receivers the ball in open space if this offense is to start making strides. For the season, Wilson is now 46-75 for only 463 yards and two touchdowns. Without a Benny Snell of Lynn Bowden in the backfield, 154 yards per game average through the air just isn’t going to cut it. Eddie Gran will have to get creative in finding a way to score some more points.
Even though Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano has looked vulnerable at times in his career, I think it’s safe to say that he won’t be tossing six interceptions on his home field, so it’s critical that UK finds a way to ramp up their offense.
It’s never easy when these two teams match-up and I’m sure Saturday down in Knoxville will be no different as the Cats aim to claw their record back to .500.
Game: Kentucky Wildcats at Tennessee Volunteers
Date: October 17th at 12:00 pm EST
Stadium: Neyland Stadium
TV Channel: SEC Network
Radio: UK Sports Network.
Odds: Tennessee opened as a 7-point favorite.
Early Prediction: TeamRankings projects a 27-21 victory for Tennessee