Tennessee hosts the No. 11 Kentucky Wildcats this Saturday at Neyland Stadium. It is a crucial game for the Vols, as they need to win two of their final three regular season games to become bowl eligible. Tennessee is currently a 5.5 point underdog according to Vegas, but there’s more to this matchup than meets the eye.
Here it is by the numbers:
1 – The current winning streak that Kentucky has over the Vols in football. I know that we hate to reminisce on the Butch Jones era and especially last season, but we must bring it up. In route to the worst season in school history, Tennessee’s five-game win streak over the Wildcats was snapped in a 29-26 loss at Kroger Field (lol it’s still really called that). Then freshman Ty Chandler introduced himself in a big way that night, rushing for 120 yards and two scores. However, Benny Snell torched Tennessee to the tune of 180 yards and three touchdowns and UK quarterback Stephen Johnson rushed for the game-winning score with 33 seconds left.
2 – The number of wins Kentucky has over Tennessee in the last 33 years. While understanding the reality of Tennessee’s current standing in the college football hierarchy, consistently beating Kentucky is still something that even the most pessimistic of Vol fans expect. Because, even with Tennessee’s on-field failures, Kentucky has still only managed to take down the Vols twice in a really bad decade of Vols football.
9 – The number of games it took for Tennessee wide receiver Marquez Callaway to get a touchdown. Callaway scored on an 82-yard punt return touchdown against Charlotte for his first trip to the end zone in 2018. The problem is that: A.) it took this long for it to happen and B.) he still has no receiving touchdowns this season. The junior is Tennessee’s most dynamic threat in the passing game and if Jarrett Guarantano can start connecting with him for six, the Vols’ chances at making a bowl will only increase.
14.5 – The number of tackles for loss that Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen has thus far. Allen received a hefty amount of preseason love and he has more than lived up to the hype thus far. He is a nightmare for offenses to defend and has made his presence felt. In addition to his TFLs, Allen has 59 tackles and 10 sacks, which leads the SEC.
15 – The ranking of Kentucky’s defense in the FBS. This is also good for fourth in the SEC. While Kentucky has one of the worst offenses in the conference, it’s been the defense that’s carried them to many wins. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the Vols will need their best offensive performance of the season to be able to top the Cats. First to 20 wins?
20 – The amount of total rushing yards that the Vols produced against the Charlotte 49ers last week. Make no mistake, it was an abysmal performance on the ground and bringing up the 49ers’ then No. 6 FBS ranking in rushing defense is no excuse. Whether you want to place the blame on the offensive line, the running backs or Tyson Helton makes no difference. Tennessee should’ve had a better day against a team in the middle of the C-USA standings and will need to find a way to improve against a Kentucky defense that is allowing 3.8 yards per rush.
34 – The number of years since Kentucky last beat Tennessee in Neyland Stadium. Reagan was in office, Red Dawn and The Terminator were out in theaters, Prince and Michael Jackson were on top of the music world and we were faced with the daily threat of nuclear annihilation. Good times. I am not trying to live in the past by talking about Tennessee’s domination of Kentucky, but it needs to be said. The Wildcats will be trying to make more history by ending this long road losing streak to the Vols.
70 – The amount of rushing yards per game Benny Snell has averaged the past two weeks. While Snell is arguably the best running back in the SEC and leads the conference with 1,008 yards through nine games, he has been kept in check recently. He has been held to 73 yards or less in three of the previous four games, with the exception being a 169-yard performance against Vanderbilt. Will a suspect Tennessee rushing defense be able to contain him?
333 – The amount of total YPG that Tennessee’s offense is putting up thus far. It’s no secret that in many games, the Vols’ offense has been completely useless and it shows on the stat sheet. One week it’s the OL, the next it’s the run game, the next it’s play-calling and everything has just been hard to watch. The Vols are also last in rushing YPG with 127.7 and PPG with 24.3.
356.3 – Hey, look! It’s Kentucky’s total offense per game! Yes, the Wildcats are right in front of the Vols for 13th in the conference in offensive yards. This may be shocking, considering they have the top running back in the SEC. That’s because despite their good rushing numbers with 199.6 YPG, they have the worst passing offense with just 156.8 YPG. The Cats have also not scored more than 17 points since a 24-10 win over South Carolina on Sep. 29. Ouch.