- Date: Saturday, October 28th
- Time: 7:00 pm ET
- Location: Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky
- TV Channel: ESPN
- Announcers: Mike Monaco, Jesse Palmer, and Katie George
- Online Stream: WatchESPN and the ESPN app.
- Radio: Tom Leach and Jeff Piecoro have the UK radio network call on the UK Sports Radio Network.
- Satellite Radio: XM Channel 203, Sirius Channel 98, Internet Channel 966
- Replay: WatchESPN and SEC Network (check local listings).
- Rosters: UK | UT
- Stats To Know: UK | UT
- Covers.com Weather Forecast:
- Odds: DraftKings Sportsbook has Kentucky listed as a 3.5-point underdog. ESPN’s matchup predictor puts Kentucky as a big underdog, giving the Wildcats just a 29.1% chance to win.
- Predictions: TeamRankings has Tennessee coming away with a 27-24 win, with DRatings.com also picking the Volunteers in a 28-24 victory.
Looking at history, the Wildcats have only beaten Tennessee three times since 1984. While on paper it is possible, I am not one to pick Kentucky to beat Tennessee until it becomes more consistent. I predict Tennessee to win 31-21.
After back-to-back losses, in embarrassing fashion as well, the bye week came at a favorable time for the Kentucky Wildcats. That said, the Wildcats will pick back up in the toughest stretch of their schedule and return to action against a No. 20 Tennessee Volunteer team.
Looking at both teams, they are having somewhat similar seasons. In terms of record, both teams hold 5-2 overall records and 2-2 records in the conference. Big picture, both teams have fallen short of expectations. This Saturday, one team will become bowl-eligible and re-enter the top half of the SEC East.
Let’s take a closer look at the cross-border rivalry matchup and the keys of the game for Kentucky.
One of the more disappointing things about this year’s Kentucky team has been the defense, especially the pass defense. After five straight seasons of top-five SEC defenses, Kentucky is currently sitting ninth in the conference in team defense.
Giving up an average of 347 yards on the season, the Wildcats give up an average of 251 yards through the air, ranking only ahead of South Carolina and Vanderbilt. As bad as the pass defense has been, the run defense has been great. In fact, the Wildcats are one of just two teams in the SEC, joining Georgia, giving up under rushing 100 yards per game.
Tennessee’s offense may play into Kentucky’s hands. After getting more than sixty percent of their yards through the air last season, the Volunteer offense is much more focused on the run game. In fact, they run the ball 54% of the time, only behind Alabama and Ole Miss in the SEC. In each of their losses, the Vols have been held to under 140 rushing yards.
Will the Passing Game Start to Click after the Bye Week?
In 2013, Mark Stoops inherited one of the worst rosters in all of college football.
Now, 10 years later, he has raised the program to its highest point of the modern era.
That said, there is still more room to grow, and according to Mark Stoops, that starts with the passing game.
“We want to grow as a program,” Stoops said in his weekly press conference on Monday. “We can sit there and second guess ourselves and look at that last time we took the field and say, ‘Hey, we could sit there and run the ball maybe twenty more times and have a better chance to win the game, but are we really growing as an organization? Are we really winning and becoming that team that we want to become?’”
After investing heavily into the passing game last offseason — bringing back Liam Coen as offensive coordinator and a substantial NIL investment in bringing in Devin Leary and returning the receivers — it is beyond asking when there will be a return.
With that said, a bye week could help refocus things, and there is no better time to get things than against your biggest conference rival.
It is hard to win games in the SEC, but it is even harder to win games when you are constantly shooting yourself in the foot with penalties.
On the season, Kentucky has 54 penalties for 479 yards. Interestingly, that is the second most in the SEC, behind only Tennessee, who has 56 penalties for 470 yards.
Over the season, discipline has been an area that the staff has taken accountability for with the media. However, Kentucky’s most recent performance against Missouri was their most undisciplined of the season, with 14 penalties for 122 yards.
Entering the bye week, the staff and players said multiple times that discipline was an area that “must improve.” Given that this is an intense rivalry between the two most penalized teams in the SEC, this will be a good test to see if that improvement has taken place.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.