June 20, 2024

Tennessee vs. Kentucky preview and prediction

With both teams in contention for the SEC East, Tennessee faces Kentucky in the first of its final three SEC matchups. Will the Vols continue their winning ways in the rivalry, or will Kentucky prove to be a challenge?

LEXINGTON, KY - OCTOBER 31, 2015 - quarterback Josh Dobbs #11 of the Tennessee Volunteers scores a touchdown during the game between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Tennessee Volunteers at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, KY. Photo By Ruth Dudley/Tennessee Athletics


It’s no secret that it has been quite a while since the Kentucky Wildcats traveled to Neyland Stadium and came away victorious.

The last time that happened was Nov., 24, 1984 – Wham! had the top song in the US, the MTV Music Video Awards were getting their start and the Summer Olympics were on U.S. soil in Los Angeles.

Kentucky (5-4, 4-3 SEC) comes into Saturday hungrier than ever to get a win over the favorited Volunteers in order to stay in contention for a trip to the SEC Championship, a feat the Wildcats haven’t seen in the 24-year history of conference championship game. The Wildcats are fresh off a 27-24 loss to Georgia and are trying to capture their fifth SEC win on the season, something they haven’t done since 1977.

For Tennessee (6-3, 2-3 SEC), this game has just as much riding on it. The Vols are also looking to solidify their spot to Atlanta while trying to turn around their season after trouncing Tennessee Tech this past Saturday following three straight SEC losses.

Tennessee leads one of the oldest college football rivalries, 78-24-9. Since Kentucky’s last win in Knoxville, the Vols have gone 30-1, that one loss coming in 2011, as the Wildcats broke the losing streak 10-7 in Lexington. Kentucky is hungrier than ever to get a win over Tennessee, and this could just be the season it happens in what will be a rush-heavy game.

Kentucky’s rushing offense has led the way for the Wildcats this season and is No. 30 in the FBS. The Wildcats have ran for 1,942 yards on 391 attempts with 18 touchdowns so far this season. With the rushing tandem of Stanley “Boom” Williams and Benny Snell Jr., Kentucky will be able to rotate running backs to move the ball. While Williams has been explosive this season with 898 yards and four touchdowns, Snell is expected to lead the Wildcats down the field. He is coming off of a stellar performance in Kentucky’s loss in Athens, leading the way with 114 yards and two trips to the end zone.

The running game has also found new life for the Vols. Since the news of Jalen Hurd’s departure, John Kelly has stepped up as a leader in the backfield. In the past two games, he has rushed for 198 yards on 21 carries, making his presence known on a 73-yard touchdown early in the Vols win over the Golden Eagles.

Both teams have had issues with fumbling the football this season, but Kentucky has had a tougher time of regaining possession, losing 13 of its 19 fumbles. Tennessee, on the other hand, has lost nine of its 23 fumbles. Despite facing multiple injuries this season, a Derek Barnett led Tennessee defense will give the Vols an edge.

The Vols look to continue their winning ways in the 112th meeting of this SEC East rivalry.

“We are going to have to take tremendous strides in moving forward, but we are also looking forward to Noon at Neyland,” Tennessee head coach Butch Jones said of the matchup. “It will be a great opportunity for our football team.”

Prediction

The home-field advantage for Tennessee is paramount in this game. The Vols have lost one game in Neyland this season. While Kentucky does pose a strong challenge this weekend, it won’t be enough to beat the Vols. Tennessee. After the shutout win last week, Tennessee finally has the pieces clicking together once again. Yes, they still have injuries they have to deal with, but they should be able to hold their own. Tennessee wins it, 36-21.

Edited by David Bradford

Featured image by Ruth Dudley, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Danielle is a senior studying Journalism and Electronic Media. Before coming to UT, she was a student intern for 106.3 ESPN Radio where she assisted in the broadcasts and productions of Pigeon Forge High School football and basketball. She is also a former sports correspondent for The Mountain Press and worked as a promotions assistant for the Tennessee Smokies. If she's not busy with the Triple Play podcast or writing sports stories, you'll most likely find her at St. John XXIII Catholic Center on campus or watching sports somewhere while she sips on an Arnold Palmer. Follow her on Twitter: @Dani_Marie_15