Kentucky must-win on Saturday against Tennessee.
Coming off back-to-back losses against Georgia and Mississippi State, the incredible momentum that the Wildcats built through the front half of the season has come to a halt. Starting off 6-0, fans had dreams of an 11-1 season, being in the discussion for the playoffs, maybe an appearance in the Sugar Bowl.
All of that is gone now, but a special season still remains on the table for Kentucky with a chance to win 10 regular season games for the first time since 1977. But in order to get there, Kentucky has to defeat a Tennessee squad that is better than many projected in the preseason.
The Vols sit at 4-4 and are coming off a bye week after back-to-back losses against Ole Miss and Alabama. But the team from Knoxville turned heads when they put up 62 against Missouri and 45 against South Carolina in back-to-back weeks last month.
Even if Tennessee is better than expected, Kentucky is the favorite going into a sellout crowd in Lexington as Kentucky looks to build off last season’s 34-7 victory in Knoxville.
Saturday’s game holds a great amount of importance for a couple of reasons.
The first being that Kentucky needs a victory following that debacle at Mississippi State. Losing at Georgia was no surprise, as the Bulldogs are the national title favorite and easily the best team in the country. Losing in Athens was not a huge deal.
But losing in Starkville is. There is no reason Kentucky should have been outplayed and outcoached in nearly every aspect of the game against that Mississippi State squad.
Getting a win over Tennessee on Saturday would be crucial to turn the momentum back in Kentucky’s favor for a very winnable three-game stretch to close the regular season. If Kentucky can beat Tennessee on Saturday, they’ll be favored in their final three games with a real opportunity to win 10 games.
A loss gives Kentucky a three-game losing skid and a lot of the momentum the program has built this season would quickly dissipate. Even if Kentucky won the next three, the players, coaches, and fans would surely have a sour taste in their mouth over what could have been.
But secondly, if Kentucky wants to truly move above Tennessee in the SEC East pecking order, they have to be able to beat Tennessee regularly.
It’s hard to say you’re ahead of another program when you’ve only beaten them three times in the last 10 seasons, and you’ve split the last four. For Kentucky to get where they want to be, they need to be able to defeat the Vols more consistently.
Getting a second consecutive win and a third in five years would be a good step toward that.
Saturday’s game is important, and a must-win in my eyes.
Go Cats. Beat the Vols.