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Fearless Prediction: Can Vols beat Kentucky in Knoxville?

Tennessee players celebrate

Kentucky hasn’t won a football game in Knoxville in 34 years. On Saturday afternoon they’ll have their best chance to do so since their 17-12 triumph on November 24, 1984.

The Wildcats were beat up by Georgia 34-17 last weekend, a loss that gave the Bulldogs the SEC East title and further exposed this UK team’s offensive issues. They’ve averaged 15 points per game over the past four contests. They have a terrific running back in Benny Snell (1008 rushing yards in nine games), but not much else on that side of the ball.

Considering how much Kentucky runs the football, there will be more pressure on the Vols defensive linemen. Emmit Gooden leads the Vols in tackles for loss with six. Alexis Johnson, Kyle Phillips and Shy Tuttle have all had their moments up front this season, and must limit what Snell can do inside the tackles.

The Vols will try to force quarterback Terry Wilson to beat them through the air. He’s averaging just short of 135 yards per game passing, but is second on the team in rushing with over 46 yards per game on the ground.

Defensively the Cats are pretty good. Linebackers Josh Allen (10 sacks) and Kash Daniel (58 tackles) will make it difficult for Tennessee to move the football, something they couldn’t do much of last weekend against Charlotte. The Vols didn’t score a point in the final 45 minutes, nor did they crack 200 yards of offense in the game. Those aren’t the kind of numbers that will scare Kentucky.

Tennessee’s offensive line woes are nothing new, and without Trey Smith, things are only getting worse. The running game was nowhere to be seen against the 49ers and the passing game was an exercise in futility as well. Somehow, quarterback Jarrett Guarantano is still staying upright. He took a massive shot in the ribs on a flea flicker on Saturday, but never left the game. If the Vols rushing attack continues to struggle, the Wildcats will pressure Guarantano at will knowing there is no threat on the ground. That could mean even more big hits on Tennessee’s redshirt sophomore.

This game likely will feature a plethora of punts. Feel the excitement! UK’s Max Duffy has put 21 punts inside the opponents 20 this season while UT’s Joe Doyle has done so 19 times. So this game could turn on special teams play.

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