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CONFERENCES COACHING CHANGES TRANSACTIONS GAMING MATCHUP CURRENT ODDS
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 30, 7 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Commonwealth Stadium (67,606) -- Lexington, Kentucky. Television: ESPN U. Home Record: Tennessee 4-3, UK 2-4. Away Record: Tennessee 0-4, UK 0-4. Neutral Record: Tennessee 0-0, UK 0-1. Conference Record: Tennessee 1-6, UK 0-7. Series Record: Tennessee leads, 75-24-9.
GAME NOTES: The Tennessee Volunteers and Kentucky Wildcats will both attempt to conclude disappointing seasons on a high note, as the SEC rivals clash at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday night.
Tennessee was not aided this season by its difficult schedule, as four of its losses have come to teams currently ranked in the Top-25, but it has nonetheless been a down season in Knoxville for first-year head coach Butch Jones. The Vols have lost four straight games to fall to 4-7 and 1-6 in the SEC, with their most recent defeat coming in heartbreaking fashion, as they fell victim to a last-minute touchdown to fall at home to Vanderbilt last weekend, 14-10.
Kentucky, another team with a rookie head coach in Mark Stoops, is one of the few teams in the SEC having a worse season than Tennessee. The Wildcats are 2-9 overall, and following their embarrassing 59-17 loss at Georgia last weekend, they are 0-7 in the league and have lost 15 straight games to conference foes dating back to last season.
The Vols have a firm grasp on the all-time series over Kentucky, 75-24-9, which includes a 37-17 triumph last season in Knoxville. The Wildcats' last win over an SEC opponent came versus Tennessee in the final game of the 2011 season, 10-7.
Thanks largely to a lack of continuity under center, Tennessee hasn't been unable to get much of anything going on offense this season, as it sits with just 23.5 points and 347.5 yards per game.
Justin Worley was hardly lighting it up before he went down with a thumb injury -- he was completing 55.6 percent of his passes for 1,239 yards with 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions -- but the Vols have struggled even more in his absence. Joshua Dobbs has made three starts in his freshman campaign, throwing five picks without a touchdown.
Luckily the Vols have a solid running game on which to lean, led by Rajion Neal with 990 yards and 11 touchdowns. Marlin Lane (503 yards, four TDs) is also mixed into the action.
The poor quarterback play has undoubtedly hurt the receivers' production. Alton 'Pig' Howard has 42 catches for 380 yards and three touchdowns, and Marquez North (38 receptions, 496 yards, TD) has also been stellar.
In addition to a poor offense, Tennessee's defense has underwhelmed by allowing 30.4 points per game, although it has been able to make up for some of its deficiencies by forcing 14 turnovers.
A.J. Johnson is one of the SEC's top tacklers with 97 stops to go with a team- best 7.5 TFL. Brian Randolph has four interceptions and a forced fumble, while Cameron Sutton and Brent Brewer have two picks apiece.
Kentucky has been even worse on offense than Tennessee, as it ranks 12th in the SEC in scoring (21.1 ppg) and 13th in yardage (336.6 ypg).
Much like the Vols, the Wildcats have suffered from a lack of identity under center. Jalen Whitlow (.616 completions, 1,035 yards, five TDs, five INTs) and Maxwell Smith (.552, 1,022 yards, seven TDs, one INT) have split the snaps nearly down the middle, although neither has asserted himself as the go-to guy. Whitlow has at least shown the ability to make plays with his legs, picking up 454 rushing yards and six touchdowns.
Raymond Sanders (464 yards, three TDs) and Jojo Kemp (460 yards, three TDs) make up a solid running back duo, although Kentucky is losing so often that it is difficult to stay committed to the ground game.
Javess Blue has emerged as the top receiving target no matter who's under center, as he has caught 40 balls for 544 yards and three touchdowns.
While the offense doesn't always leave the team in the best position, Kentucky's defense has still not lived up to its end of the bargain, as it ranks last in the SEC in allowing 31.5 points per game while intercepting a league-low two passes.
Avery Williamson has a team-best 96 tackles, 40 more than his closest teammate. Alvin Dupree (9.0 TFL, 7.0 sacks, two FF) and Za'Darius Smith (6.0 sacks) have both had strong seasons rushing off the edge.
If there's ever a game for Kentucky to win, it would be this matchup at home against another struggling squad with injury concerns, but even with the Vols banged up under center, they still possess superior offensive talent. With Neal playing his final game as a collegiate player, he'll likely be determined to go off and lead the Vols to a win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Tennessee 34, Kentucky 31
11/27 11:13:59 ET