Tennessee football: Three reasons the Vols will beat Kentucky (and three reasons they won't)
With three games left, Tennessee needs two victories to become bowl eligible. That bowl quest begins in earnest this weekend when the Vols host Kentucky.
Can the Vols improve from 4-8 last season to 6-6, which would send them bowling? There are plenty of reasons to think UT could reach its preseason goal of bowl eligibility or fall painfully short.
It all starts with trying to prevent Kentucky from posting its first two-game winning streak in the series since 1976-77.
Can the Vols do it? Let’s break it down.
3 reasons Tennessee will beat Kentucky
1. The Vols are more explosive
Tennessee won’t confuse anyone for Alabama this season, but they do have the ability to rip off some long plays, especially with receiver Jauan Jennings and running back Tyson Chandler returning from limited action in practice leading up to the Charlotte game. Those are two players the Vols can depend on to flip the field.
2. The Vols seem to be getting healthier
We mentioned Jennings and Chandler, but they’re not the only ones who seem to be on the mend. UT defensive backs Micah Abernathy, a senior, and freshman Trevon Flowers also appear close to returning to 100 percent health. That can only help the Vols defense against a subpar Kentucky passing game. Speaking of …
3. Kentucky is incredibly one-dimensional
Kentucky is much more Paul “Bear” Bryant than Hal Mumme. The Wildcats rely on the SEC’s fourth best rushing attack and standout running back Benny Snell. While the ground game has been a strength all season, Kentucky’s passing attack ranks dead last in the SEC. This shouldn’t be a hard game for UT’s defensive coaches to prepare for.
3 reasons Tennessee won’t beat Kentucky
1. Kentucky’s defense is really good
Kentucky has the fourth best defense in the SEC. That ranks behind only Mississippi State, Alabama and Georgia. Two of those teams are in the hunt for a national title. That’s pretty good company. Don’t expect the Vols to light up the scoreboard on Saturday against the Cats.
2. The Vols are still banged up — and thin
Even if all the aforementioned injured Tennessee players are able to return to action on Saturday, it’s not likely that they will be 100 percent. Even if they are, it’s hard not to wonder who is capable of backing them up in case of another injury. UT’s roster can’t withstand much more this late in the season.
3. Snell is really good
Snell will be the most productive — and likely the best — player on the field on Saturday. Snell is a tough tailback to tackle. He has great balance, is surprisingly elusive and knows how to avoid big hits. Snell will most likely get his fair share of yards, but the Vols can’t let him take over the game.