From an 0-2 start to losing its starting quarterback in game 3; Kentucky has experienced a relative run of success in the Southeastern Conference which was unfathomable in mid-September. Tennessee’s stretch of injuries and turmoil have factored in an up and down season that has yet to meet sky-high Volunteer expectation. On Saturday the one-time rivals will square off in the battle for the retired Beer Barrel.
What to expect?
— The Vol offense operated at a faster clip against Tennessee Tech. Was that an indication of future intent? My guess is yes. QB Joshua Dobbs appeared comfortable with the addition of a faster tempo.
— RB Alvin Kamara may return to action on Saturday. If so, Kamara adds an element of danger to the UT run game. Once part of the formidable Kamara/Hurd combo, he now will join John Kelly in the Volunteer backfield. QB Josh Dobbs remains the team’s 2nd leading rusher with 323 yards.
— DE Derek Barnett is the real deal and as good as you get on Saturdays. Much like Alabama’s Jonathon Allen, Barnett has maximized his elite talent to dominate the Southeastern Conference. He currently leads the league in QB sacks (9) and tackles for loss (14.5).
— Punter Trevor Daniel averages 44.5 yards per punt. Daniel has a field position changing leg.
— Tennessee has fumbled 23 times; lost 9.
— Allows 191 rush yards per game. This number will be a point of focus for Eddie Gran and company.
— UT defense has allowed 5 players to rush for more than 100 yards in its latest 3 SEC games.
— Boom Williams is the SEC’s 4th leading rusher with 898 yards; 99.78 per game.
— Benny Snell’s 775 yards and 86.11 per game totals rank 7th in the SEC.
— Offense is averaging 215 rush yards per games. Tennessee allows 191; this will be a factor on Saturday.
— Receivers will be seeking redemption after a substandard performance against Georgia.
— UK pass rush has slowed from a mid-season burst of production. Surprisingly, the Cats didn’t produce a sack vs. the Georgia.
— Kentucky has fumbled 14 times; lost 9.
— LB Jordan Jones leads the SEC with 58 solo tackles. Jones ranks 3rd in total tackles with 81; 9 per game.
— Mike Edwards has entered the upper-level of SEC safeties. The sophomore is the conference’s 5th leading tackler with 73; 8.1 per game.
— In Kentucky’s first 3 games vs. Southern Miss, Florida, and New Mexico State the Cats allowed 243 rush yards per game, 285 passing, 528 total, and 43.7 points per game.
— In the Cats last 6 games its allowed: 176 rush yards per game, 198 passing, 374 total, and 23.8 points per game.
What does all this mean?
— UK has their hands full with a Tennessee team that has apparently picked itself up off the mat. Granted it played Tennessee Tech a week ago, but QB Josh Dobbs played with renewed confidence.
— DE Derek Barnett is a game-changing football player and will be a force to be reckoned with for 60 minutes.
— The potential return of Alvin Kamara and All American CB/PR Cam Sutton could act as a locker room solidifier.
— Kentucky should be mad as a wet hornet after watching the Georgia tape. Missed opportunity; UK played its worst game since getting trounced in the Swamp. The manner in which it responds on Saturday will provide a compelling picture of Mark Stoops’ football program.