Western Kentucky (1-0) at Tennessee (1-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 7, 12:21 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Neyland Stadium (102,455) -- Knoxville, Tennessee. Television: SEC Network, ESPN3.com. Home Record: WKU 0-0, UT 1-0. Away Record: WKU 0-0, UT 0-0. Neutral Record: WKU 1-0, UT 0-0. Conference Record: WKU 0-0, UT 0-0. Series Record: Tennessee leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: For the second consecutive week, the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers hit the road to take on an SEC opponent, this time heading to Knoxville to challenge the Tennessee Volunteers.
A year after qualifying for the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, WKU's success continued into the start of the 2013 campaign, coach Bobby Petrino's first with the program, as it was impressive in a 35-26 win over Kentucky on a neutral field last Saturday. It marked the second consecutive season the Hilltoppers bested their intrastate rivals from the SEC.
Tennessee experienced several lackluster seasons under the previous regime, but it got the Butch Jones-era started off on the right foot, as it dismantled FCS foe Austin Peay in its opener last week, 45-0. The Vols went an entire game without a penalty for the first time since 2007.
Jones became the fourth straight head coach at UT to win his debut, and the triumph was the 800th in program history.
The Volunteers won the only previous meeting between these two programs, 63-7 on Sept. 5, 2009.
Western Kentucky wasn't the least bit intimidated by its SEC opponent in last week's opener, making a statement by putting up 35 points and 487 total yards.
As he was last season when he racked up the second-most all-purpose yards in FBS history, Antonio Andrews was the spark plug in the victory. He accounted for 194 total yards on the evening, with most of his damage coming on the ground (20 carries, 99 yards, TD).
Andrews wasn't the only rusher to perform well for the Hilltoppers, as Leon Hall logged just 10 carries but made every one of them count, piling up 92 yards and a touchdown. Keshawn Simpson had only 34 yards, but acted as the closer with two short TD runs.
Brandon Doughty did everything that was asked of him in his debut as the unrivaled starting quarterback, completing 27-of-34 passes for 271 yards, including his first-career touchdown pass.
Mitchell Henry was on the receiving end of Doughty's scoring strike and finished with six receptions for 65 yards. Willie McNeal (six receptions, 57 yards) was also a reliable target.
For most of the game, WKU's defense performed well, although some garbage time production from the Wildcats caused the final stats to take a hit (419 total yards allowed).
Xavius Boyd was outstanding, picking up 10 tackles, three TFL and a pair of sacks. Jonathan Dowling (eight tackles, forced fumble, fumble recovery) and Andrew Jackson (eight tackles, TFL) also had strong starts to what are expected to be All-Sun Belt campaigns.
Even when Tennessee has struggled in years past, putting up big point totals was never really an issue, and it continued the trend last week in marching up and down the field for 447 yards against Austin Peay while scoring touchdowns on 5-of-6 trips to the red zone.
Rajion Neal, one of the few offensive holdovers from 2012, was the catalyst in the triumph, piling up 141 yards on 16 carries, including a 47-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Deathonie Summerhill (67 yards) and Marlin Lane (38 yards, two TDs) were also factors in the unstoppable UT rushing attack.
Justin Worley didn't need to do much under center but he made the most of his limited opportunities. Playing only the first half, he completed 11-of-13 passes for 104 yards and three touchdowns. Nathan Peterman (4-of-8, 28 yards) took over after intermission.
No receiver had more than 33 yards on the day, but Devrin Young, Alton Howard, and Brendon Downs all had touchdown receptions.
Even though it came against an FCS opponent, the Vols' impressive defensive performance was still a great sign. The unit allowed just 11 first downs and 211 yards in the shutout.
Malik Foreman and Daniel Hood both recorded interceptions, while Marlon Walls and Maurice Couch each logged a sack.
WKU proved last week with a strong non-conference win that it is a legitimate contender in the Sun Belt with Petrino at the helm, but venturing away from home in back-to-back weeks to play teams from the dreaded SEC is a tall order for any program. Andrews will have his say against a still-questionable Volunteers defense, but the home team will find a way to squeak this one out.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Tennessee 35, Western Kentucky 31
09/04 10:42:13 ET