Basketball season may be officially underway, but for once in who knows how long, Kentucky football may be garnering more of the attention. UK has a massive game this afternoon against the Vols, where a win could officially place them in post season action and keep hope alive for an SEC East title crown.
Last weekend, Kentucky was two plays away from knocking off the Georgia Bulldogs and maintaining the top spot in the East. Two. UK was absolutely the better team on Saturday, and had countless opportunities to not only win, but defeat the Dawgs in blowout fashion.
Many believed a win over Georgia would give the Cats the momentum necessary for a shot at upsetting Tennessee the following week, but I honestly think they’ll be alright without it.
Here are four keys for Kentucky’s shot at an upset:
Receivers have to do their part
I talked them up a few weeks ago when the entire WR group was exceeding expectations, but they let everyone down against Georgia. Stephen Johnson put the ball where it needed to be more often than not, but the drops came back on some crucial plays. Most people remember Jeff Badet’s drop landing into the defender’s hands, but “Juice” Johnson and Dorian Baker had a couple rough ones, as well. Kentucky has to establish a balanced passing attack today, and the receivers have to do their part to make that happen. Boom and Benny will carry the majority of weight, but UK has to be able to keep the Tennessee defense honest by going through the air, as well.
Also, it’s time for Stephen Johnson and CJ Conrad to knock the rust off and connect on a few big throws. The days of sailing balls over the head of the 6’5 tight end are over. I hope.
Control time of possession
Last weekend, Georgia established the run and milked the clock throughout the game, especially there in the second half. With a few tough turnovers and 3-and-outs by the offense, the Kentucky defense had to go back out on the field on nearly back-to-back-to-back drives in the third quarter. The defense made some key stops, but got gassed in the fourth quarter and gave up points. UK has to find a way to have long, sustained drives to keep the defense off the field. UK’s defense has been playing very well as of late, but they can only do so much with little rest. Move the chains, kill the clock, and put points up on the board.
Pound it down their throats in the run game
Going into the game last weekend, we all knew Georgia was a force defending the run. The Bulldogs gave up just over 100 yards a game to opposing rushers throughout the season, yet the Cats still managed to run for 186 yards on the day. Tennessee gives up 192 yards on the ground per game, and are absolutely depleted on the defensive side of the ball right now. Boom Williams only has 12 yards on nine carries in his career against the Volunteers, but those stats are going to take a dramatic shift this afternoon. Boom and Benny are going to have huge days.
If Tennessee wins the turnover battle, I don’t see how Kentucky wins this game. Stephen Johnson has to take care of the ball, no errant passes, no loose carries, etc. Kentucky is last in the SEC in turnovers with 22, but the Vols are right behind with 20. Be disciplined with the ball, and maybe force the Vols to cough up the ball once or twice, and UK has a very real shot to win this game. Turnovers are absolute momentum killers, and the Cats can’t afford that in a hostile road environment like Neyland Stadium. Don’t let the crowd force mental errors, and execute on both sides of the ball.
The overall streak may have ended back in 2011, but it’s time to end the road streak and beat Tennessee for the first time since 1984.