It’s been a tiring few weeks for the Kentucky Wildcats. After starting the season 6-0 with emotional wins over Florida and LSU, Kentucky has since lost to Georgia and Mississippi State in back-to-back weeks.
The Wildcats will welcome the Tennessee Volunteers to Lexington for a game that should be tight throughout. Tennessee is 4-4 on the season, but they’ve looked much better this year than in recent years. The Volunteers have lost two straight games to Ole Miss and Alabama and continue their gauntlet against their third straight ranked opponent.
One of these two teams will end their two-game losing streak, while the other will add a third loss to their streak. Here are our picks and predictions on what should be an exciting match-up in the SEC between the Volunteers and Wildcats.
- Opening Line: Kentucky -3, O/U 58.5
- Current Line: Kentucky -1, O/U 57
- Last meeting: October 17, 2020, Kentucky 34, Tennessee 7
The Tennessee Volunteers started the season with Joe Milton under center. However, they quickly realized how much better Hendon Hooker was than Milton and have started him ever since he saw action over Milton due to an injury. Hooker has 17 touchdowns and just two interceptions on the year and has been a huge reason for the development of the Vols this season.
Despite being 4-4, Tennessee is dangerous and can beat an SEC team on any given night. The pass protection has been weak for the Vols, but overall, they’ve got a terrific passer and a running back in Tiyon Evans, who is rushing for 6.4 yards per carry this season on 80 attempts.
Meanwhile, the Tennessee defense has improved this year. The rushing defense has been a strength of Tennessee’s while tackling has not been. They’re giving up nearly 400 yards on the defensive end, with 144 yards coming on the ground. But, again, this is due to a lack of tackling.
On the other hand, Kentucky has averaged fewer points than Kentucky this season but is also giving up nearly a touchdown less when it comes to points allowed. In addition, Kentucky’s defense hasn’t been elite but looks good. I will say, last week against Mississippi State, the defense didn’t look prepared, but in the grand scheme of things, they’ve done well, especially stopping the run.
Offensively, Kentucky is averaging 27 points per game but just 366.3 yards per game. Will Levis has thrown 14 touchdowns but also nine interceptions. Kentucky is at its best when they’re running the football. Tennessee has allowed nearly 150 yards rushing per game. There’s room for Kentucky to succeed if they commit to the run game a little bit more. That’s including Levis.
- Wildcats are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games after allowing less than 100 yards rushing in their previous game.
- Wildcats are 6-1-1 ATS in their last 8 conference games.
- Under is 7-0 in Volunteers last 7 games in November.
I like Kentucky to get back to rushing the football. They didn’t commit to it as much as they should’ve against Mississippi State, and the offense lagged because of it. If you want to win SEC football games, the turnovers have to be limited, and allowing Levis to throw more times than not will result in a turnover or two.
Levis can run and run well. In addition, we know that Tennessee has struggled to tackle, which should help Levis and the running back committee find their way down the field.
On defense, Kentucky’s defensive line should have their way against Tennessee. While that won’t create a whole bunch of turnovers, it’ll add pressure against Hooker and help Kentucky get some big-time stops.
I’ll take Kentucky -115 on the money line, at home, against Tennessee.
Pick: Kentucky (-115)
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