No. 18 Tennessee vs. Kentucky game day preview

Kentucky travels to Neyland Stadium to take on the Vols in another match up of a storied rivalry.

ATHENS, GEORGIA- OCTOBER 10: Bryce Thompson #0 of the Tennessee Volunteers celebrates during the football game at Sanford Stadium on October 10, 2020 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo courtesy of Tennessee Football Twitter @vol_football)

The No. 18 Tennessee Volunteers (2-1) host the Kentucky Wildcats (1-2) in another installation of a classic rivalry game dating back to 1893.

This will be the 126th meeting between the two teams. The Vols currently lead the series 81-25-9 and are on a two-game winning streak over the Wildcats. Kentucky has not won in Neyland Stadium since 1984 and has only won two games against Tennessee since that game.

Last Saturday, the Volunteers lost their first game of the season 44-21 against the No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs. Tennessee was leading 21-17 going into halftime but completely fell apart in the second half.

Vols quarterback Jarrett Guarantano had an impressive first half including two touchdown passes to wide receiver Josh Palmer, but he was unable to continue his skilled play after the halftime break.

To open up the second half, Guarantano fumbled the ball, leading to a Georgia field goal. On the next possession, he threw an interception that would lead to another field goal for the Bulldogs. Guarantano fumbled again in the third quarter. Tennessee lineman Wanya Morris recovered the loose ball, saving Guarantano. With the game already out of hand in the fourth quarter, Guarantano fumbled for a third time, resulting in a scoop-and-score touchdown for Georgia.

Even with 4-star freshman Harrison Bailey and experienced sophomore Brian Maurer on the bench, Tennessee Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt says he will be sticking with Guarantano as quarterback.

“Jarrett (Guarantano) is our quarterback,” Pruitt said in a press conference on Monday. “He gives us the best opportunity to have success.”

Although Guarantano was the one to turn the ball over, the blame does not solely lie on him. The highly acclaimed Tennessee offensive line was out matched by the distinguished Georgia defense. Guarantano has only had four crucial mishaps, all of which were situations where he was sacked or under immense pressure.

The underwhelming play from the offensive line is very apparent when looking at the Vols’ rushing game. Tennessee finished the game with -1 rushing yards as a team. The offensive line could not open holes for running backs Eric Gray and Ty Chandler who were only able to rush for a combined 36 yards. The lack of protection for Guarantano also led to him finishing the game with -40 rushing yards on 10 attempts.

A bright spot for Tennessee was their defense. They had a goal line stand, preventing Georgia from scoring and preserving Tennessee’s lead going into halftime. They also stepped up after the offense turned it over and limited the damage as much as possible. If the offense continues to play poorly then high level defensive play will be imperative for the Vols to succeed.

Last season, Tennessee’s defense was crucial in their win over Kentucky. The Vols only let up 13 points, all of which were scored in the first quarter. Tennessee was on the brink of letting up a potential game winning touchdown, but the defense stonewalled Kentucky at the goal line leading to the Wildcats turning the ball over on downs and giving the Vols a win.

Kentucky’s last appearance was a 24-2 victory over the Mississippi State Bulldogs for their first win of the season.

Wildcat quarterback Terry Wilson threw for a touchdown and just 73 yards on eight completions. He also had a 51 yard rush that led to a touchdown two plays later. Wilson led Kentucky to a 10-3 record in 2018 but missed a majority of the 2019 season after getting injured in their second game.

The Wildcats only amassed a total of 157 yards in the game but their defense stepped up in a major way. Kentucky had six interceptions against the two Mississippi State quarterbacks and allowed zero points. However, this comes after giving up 42 points in a single overtime loss to Ole Miss and 29 points in a loss to Auburn.

Tennessee is favored by six points going into Saturday’s game. In the Vols first three games, they are 1-1-1 against the spread.

Editors’ Picks

Ryan Sylvia, assistant sports editor – Tennessee 24, Kentucky 10

The Vols will continue their dominance over the Wildcats in a relatively low scoring game. Tennessee will go up early and the defense will not budge. The offensive line will return to form against a much weaker Kentucky defense and the Vols’ running backs will have a field day with the holes that are opened for them.

Christian Knox, managing editor/sports editor – Tennessee 31, Kentucky 17

This game has potential to turn into a shootout. Both Tennessee and Kentucky have secondaries that can be exposed downfield, while both teams’ offenses can move the chains and maintain posession. This game could come down to turnover differential and sack production.

Game Time and Coverage

Kickoff is at noon EST in Knoxville, Tennessee. The game airs on the SEC Network and TNJN will have more coverage following the game.

Edited by Gracie-Lee Strange and Christian Knox

Feature image courtesy of Tennessee Football Twitter (@Vol_Football)

Assistant Sports Editor | + posts

Ryan Sylvia is the Assistant Sports Editor at TNJN. He is a sophomore at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville majoring in journalism and electronic media. Although he spent most of his life being raised outside of Philadelphia, he was born in Knoxville, and he is happy to be back home. Ryan has had a love for sports from an early age, and he found his love for writing in high school while taking journalism classes. He hopes to find a job involving both his passions as a sports journalist after graduation. To reach Ryan, email him at rsylvia@vols.utk.edu