Tennessee jumped three spots from No. 18 to No. 15 in the Week 14 AP Poll following two big wins. The Vols steamrolled LSU on Wednesday and Ole Miss on Saturday by a combined 56 points, moving into sole possession of second place in the SEC behind No. 8 Auburn.
Behind a relentless defense and hot offense, Tennessee has won eight of nine games since a big home loss to Auburn back on Jan. 2. During the stretch, the Vols have held all but one opponent to 65 or fewer points, and even that was in a win — a 92-84 triumph over Vanderbilt.
It hasn’t been defense alone, though. Tennessee’s offense has kept pace with the excellent play of the defense, averaging 75.6 points in the same nine-game span. That’s a double-digit point difference across the span.
All good things must come to an end, though, and the Vols have their toughest test in some time this week. They travel to Rupp Arena on Tuesday to play the struggling No. 24 Kentucky Wildcats, but the orange and white haven’t won in Rupp since 2006 behind Vol legend Chris Lofton.
However, Kentucky isn’t exactly having the time of its life right now. The Wildcats scraped by last-place Vanderbilt in overtime on Tuesday before losing to Missouri, 69-60, on Saturday. It was the first time ever that the Tigers had beaten Kentucky.
After the trip to Rupp, the Vols will head to Tuscaloosa to wrap up unofficial rivalry week. The Crimson Tide have been anything but consistent lately, but at their best, the Tide can roll over anyone.
Alabama beat now-No. 8 Auburn and then probable player of the year Trae Young and No. 17 Oklahoma in a span of a 10 days, but have lost to both Ole Miss and Missouri in the past week and a half.
With Tennessee eyeing a potential regular season SEC Championship and a possible top-three seed in the NCAA Tournament, this week will prove vital in the committee’s eyes and for the Vols’ chances at their first regular season conference title since 2008.