As the month of October winds down and the leaves begin to turn, Tennessee travels to Lexington to take on the Kentucky Wildcats to renew a rivalry that started way back in 1893.
Tennessee has dominated the series overall and has only lost one since 1984, but the Vols come into this matchup as an underdog. Let’s take a look at some game keys that will lead to a Tennessee “upset” up north.
Make Kentucky win by passing
The Vols’ defense ranks No. 4 in the nation in passing yards allowed per game. On the opposite side of the ball, Kentucky’s passing offense has been below average. Considering Tennessee’s rush defense is one of the worst in the nation, the Vols need to stack the box, take away the run and force the Wildcats to go to the air.
Look to freshman Shawn Shamburger to build off a solid performance against Alabama and have a big game on defense. The Wildcats have only thrown four interceptions all year long, so Tennessee has to get pressure and force Kentucky quarterback Stephen Johnson into some trouble.
Pull some tricks out of the bag
It’s no secret that the Vols’ offensive line is banged up. Losing junior Jack Jones to retirement due to injury didn’t help matters. so it’s time to start thinking outside the box. Let’s see a reverse, a (better) flea flicker or a halfback pass — something different.
The Vols have nothing to lose at this point, so why not just give Jarrett Guarantano the keys to the offense and tell him to run wild against the ‘Cats. Butch Jones and Larry Scott could consider rolling him out and creating more space for him.
Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald ran for 115 yards against this Kentucky team, and with John Kelly out, Guarantano needs to have a big part in the rushing attack.
Get in the end zone
Now I know you’re thinking “Yeah Dalton, no s***” but my goodness, I have about forgotten what a touchdown feels like. And I mean an offensive touchdown.
The band is dying to play Rocky Top and Bob Kesling is itching to scream “TOUCHDOWN TENNESSEE!” Kentucky offers as good of a defense as any to finally cross the goal line. As I mentioned before, Tennessee has to run the ball with no questions asked. The pigskin must travel on the ground for the Vols. Get behind the big man, Trey Smith, and let him lead Ty Chandler and more to the promised lands.
Against an offense wanting to run the ball, the Vols are going to give up some points. They’re going to have to score them, too.