A Big Game For Both Teams
Following their second bye week of the 2019 season the Kentucky Wildcats host Tennessee in a huge contest. The rivalry between the two teams is always intense. However with bowl implications Saturday night’s game at 7:30 on the SEC Network to borrow a phrase “means a little more.” Who gets the win and continues their march to a bowl game? Let’s find out as we begin previewing Tennessee at Kentucky.
Hot Name On The Rumor Mill
No coach wants to spend the week of a rivalry game answering questions about their future. However, Mark Stoops has had to do just that. Following the dismissal of Willie Taggart at Florida State, Stoops’ name is consistently among the list of potential successors for the job. Of course Stoops was the defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach from 2010-2012 under Jimbo Fisher. The UK head man however is saying all the right things as the Cats get ready for Saturday.
On whether he will address the Florida State speculation with the team …
Mark Stoops: “There is no need to. Our players know where my heart is at and my focus is. They’ll know that we’ll be ready to play this week. There’s no need, we’ll just continue to do what we’re doing.”
— Vaughts' Views (@vaughtsviews) November 5, 2019
In addition Stoops says he and recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow have been calling all of Kentucky’s impressive 2020 class to assure them he will be here next year.
Going With What Works
With both Terry Wilson and Sawyer Smith out with injuries the Cats have gone to Lynn Bowden at quarterback. In the last three games the junior has run for 499 yards and averaged a whopping eight yards a carry. In addition he has four touchdowns. Bowden has carried Kentucky’s offense the last few weeks.
Along with Bowden look for the Cats to establish the running game behind A.J. Rose and Kavosiey Smoke. They are also hoping the bye week helped Ahmad Wagner get healthy as he is the number one target at wide receiver. As we continue previewing Tennessee at Kentucky let’s now look at the Vols.
Scouting The Volunteers
Following a 1-4 start Jeremy Pruitt’s club has won three of it’s last four. They followed up a 45-21 win over South Carolina with a 30-7 victory last week over UAB. One question for the Vols is who is going to be the quarterback. Kentucky has to be ready for three players.
Jarrett Guarantano, Brian Maurer and JT Shrout could all see action against the Cats. Behind them running back Ty Chandler has 561 yards on the season. The wide receiver position is headed by Jauan Jennings who has 722 yards already to go along with seven touchdowns. Stopping him is a major key to the game on Saturday. However the Kentucky secondary has been much better than expected in 2019.
On the other side of the ball the Tennessee defense has been very impressive. If not for a meaningless score late in the game against UAB they will have gone six quarters without allowing a touchdown.
The Last Time They Met
A season ago the Vols jumped out to a 17-0 halftime lead on their way to a 24-7 victory. The win was Tennessee’s 17th straight at home over Kentucky with the Wildcats’ last win coming in 1984. The Volunteer defense held Benny Snell to only 81 yards on the ground and UK gained only 262 yards for the entire game. Not only was the loss one of the worst of the Stoops era but it kept the Wildcats out of the Peach Bowl.
Saturday’s match up is the 115th meeting between the schools all-time. The teams first played on October 21, 1893 with Kentucky winning 56-0. Overall Tennessee leads the series 80 wins to 25 with nine ties.
Of course the Vols ran off 26 straight wins from 1985 through 2010 before the Cats broke the streak in 2011. As a result of injuries to both Kentucky quarterbacks wide receiver Matt Roark got the nod leading the Cats to a 10-7 victory. That win made it all the way to the quarterfinals of our contest determining Kentucky’s greatest football victory.
Who Wins On Saturday?
As mentioned in the beginning the game on Saturday is crucial for both clubs. The winner takes a major step towards bowl eligibility. Kentucky needs two wins in their last four to make a fourth straight post season game.
On the other side the Vols have a much slimmer margin for error. They must win two of their last three to make a bowl. After a bye week they go to Missouri and host Vanderbilt. Our current bowl projections has the Cats playing in the Belk Bowl and the Vols in the Gator.
The Cats seem to have a giant chip on their shoulder after last year’s awful performance in Knoxville. Stoops is 1-5 all-time against Tennessee with the only win coming in a 29-26 win in 2017.
Look for a close game that goes down to the wire. Playing at home look for the Kroger Field crowd and another strong performance from Bowden to give the Cats the win.
Thanks for previewing Tennessee at Kentucky here at Last Word On College Football. We’ll have a recap of the game and look ahead to next week’s game against Vanderbilt.