On this week’s Rocky Topics, Robert Hughes and Adam Milliken debate which remaining game Tennessee is most likely to lose.
Hughes: Despite a shocking loss to South Carolina, there’s still a chance that Tennessee could find the backdoor to the SEC Championship game. A loss, however, would guarantee at least four losses yet again for the Vols. If Tennessee is going to lose again, it will happen this Saturday against the Kentucky Wildcats. Kentucky silently has one of the best rushing attacks in the SEC with the dynamic duo of Stanley “Boom” Williams and Benjamin Snell. The running backs have almost 1,700 rushing yards between them and both average over five yards per carry. With all the injuries Tennessee has at defensive tackle and linebacker, these two playmakers could have a field day.
Milliken: Robert makes a semi-convincing argument, but not convincing enough. The Wildcats have one of the worst offensive lines in the SEC, and they’re going up against the solid Volunteer front. Tennessee is third in the SEC in tackles for loss and sixth in sacks. That will pose, along with an offense that Kentucky can’t stop, too many problems for the Wildcats to overcome. However, there is a game that Tennessee can still lose – the season finale against Vanderbilt. Last season, against what was supposed to be an atrocious Commodore offense, the Vols gave up over 400 yards of offense. This year, Vandy’s offense is better, the Volunteer defense is immensely banged up, the game is in Nashville and Vanderbilt will be motivated to win. Behind a running game that is led by Ralph Webb, and a defense that is capable of slowing down the Tennessee offense, the Commodores are the team the Vols should be most concerned with.
Hughes: Vanderbilt’s defense is surprisingly good, so that’s fair. But, Tennessee doesn’t lose that game. If the Vols are able to pull off a win against Kentucky this weekend, they’ll breeze through Missouri and likely have a shot to seal the SEC East against Vanderbilt. If the Vols can’t get motivated for that, it could be a problem. Going back to Kentucky, however, there’s something about the “Battle for the Barrel,” as it used to be called, that brings out higher intensity from both teams. Looking back to 2007, the year Tennessee won the East, Kentucky gave Tennessee everything it could and forced the game to four overtimes before the Vols finally squeezed out the victory. While the rivalry hasn’t been quite as close in the past couple of seasons, head coach Mark Stoops has finally put together a complete team that could give the Vols a run for their money.
Milliken: When Robert mentions the higher intensity from both teams, he’s referring to the lopsided beat downs that the Vols have handed out to Kentucky like candy on Halloween. Since the Vols’ anomaly of a loss to the Wildcats in 2011, Tennessee has won every game against Kentucky — and the closest margin of victory has been 13, which occurred in 2013. So, no, there won’t be any raised intensity. There will be in the Vanderbilt game, however. The Commodores match up against the Vols much better than the Wildcats do. Kentucky hasn’t even been able to slow down Josh Dobbs — Tennessee’s resident overrated, average quarterback. Kentucky doesn’t have the talent up front on either side of the ball, the secondary can’t compare to Tennessee’s receivers and the Wildcats’ strength — the running game — plays right into the strength of the Vols’ defense. On the other hand, Vanderbilt can, at the very least, match up well enough to give Tennessee a dog fight. Kentucky will lose to the Vols handily, and Vanderbilt will give them all they can handle.
Edited by Dalton King
Featured image by Craig Bisacre, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics
Adam is the Assistant Sports Editor for the Tennessee Journalist and a Junior at UT. Most of his free time is spent watching sports, listening to good music, and enjoying life. If you wish to contact him, you can email him at email@example.com, follow him on Twitter, @AdamMilliken14, or find him at https://www.linkedin.com/pub/adam-milliken/109/a89/a32.