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Tennessee Volunteers vs. Kentucky Wildcats
Where and when: Kroger Field, Lexington, Kentucky, Saturday, 7:30 pm EST
Two of the bottom three teams within the SEC East division will meet on Saturday night with the Tennessee Volunteers paying a visit to Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky, for a matchup with the Kentucky Wildcats. And while both teams are coming off wins, Kentucky has dropped six of the last seven contests versus the Volunteers while also falling to Tennessee in two of their last three meetings at Kroger Center. Nonetheless, the Wildcats picked up a win at home versus Tennessee in 2017 by only three points. PointsBet favors the Volunteers by 1 in this contest while the total has been set at 41.5 points.
Bowl hopes for the Wildcats are definitely in play as they enter this game at a record of 4-4. They have remaining games versus the Vanderbilt Commodores on the road along with their final two home matchups are with FCS Moccasins of Tennessee-Martin while finishing up the Louisville Cardinals. However, they must be able to take care of business versus a Tennessee squad that has won two straight entering this game.
This task may be very difficult with their starting QB in Sawyer Smith along with their star running back Lynn Bowden, Jr. all being questionable with shoulder and undisclosed injuries. And while the offense is putting up just 21 points per game in 2019, their rushing attack has been their bread and butter in putting up over two hundred yards per.
However, Kentucky will face a Tennessee defensive unit that is ranked in the top 50 in total yards per game (351), passing yards (213), along with rushing yards (138). On the other hand, the Wildcats’ defense is allowing just over 20 points to opponents this season while ranking 14th in pass defense in allowing just 181 yards in the air per game. They must bring the focus when facing QB Jarrett Guarantano, who has passed for 3 TD’s alongside 1 pick in the last two games for the Volunteers (11 TD’s, 5 INT’s for the year).
Guarantano and the offense for Tennessee enter this matchup on a two-game winning streak after beating the South Carolina Gamecocks along with the Blazers of Alabama-Birmingham last weekend. Furthermore, despite putting up 25 points per game on the year, the Volunteers scored a total of 71 points during these games. Along with Guarantano, running back Ty Chandler is also coming off some big performances during this time as well.
Of course, the Volunteers would love to keep this momentum going on the road where they are winless on the year; However, with two members of their offensive line questionable for this game with injuries, it may become difficult to make headway, even versus a Wildcats defense that has not defended the run well at all in allowing 176 yards per game.
Defensive back Jerron Means is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury for Tennessee’s secondary, which is allowing 213 yards passing per week (52nd in nation). The Volunteers are 0-2 on the road versus the SEC in 2019 while giving up a total of 69 points to the Florida Gators along with the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Wildcats seek third win in four outingsAs stated, QB Smith along with Bowden, Jr. remain questionable for this matchup, which leaves their already low-scoring offense in limbo. Surprisingly so, Smith has not thrown a touchdown pass since September 14th in a home loss versus the Florida Gators. In addition to this, the junior has had a disastrous string of starts since in completing just over 50% of his passes while throwing for no scores alongside two picks in the meantime.
As stated, Bowden, Jr. has been the most dangerous playmaker for the Wildcats in posting five scores on the season while averaging over eleven yards per catch. However, the junior receiver has continued to deal with injury while playing both the QB position along with receiver for Kentucky in 2019. As pointed out, the Wildcats rank 100 (or worse) in all major offensive categories while their rushing attack, has really been able to exert their dominance on opponents. However, the Volunteers have shown that they have the ability to stop opposing rushing attack in 2019 and will certainly be ready to challenge what may be a short-handed offensive unit for the Wildcats on Saturday.
Linebacker Kash Daniel is questionable with a head injury for a Wildcats defense that has also limited offensive opportunities for the opposition all year long. They now set their sights on a Tennessee offense that may be without two of their offensive starts within the trenches. This may allow them to step up pressure on Guarantano while stuffing a rushing attack for Tennessee that is recording 138 yards per game.
Volunteers seek third straight win, overall, along with first road win of 2019Despite quarterback Guarantano and running back Chandler sparking the offense (both in the air and ground) for the Volunteers during the past two weeks, linemen Darnell Wright along with Jahmir Johnson are each questionable with ankle and knee injuries. With this being the case, one may feel as though the Volunteers' best chance to pick up a win will be to have Guarantano drop back and pick apart the defensive secondary for the Wildcats. The problem with that is that the Wildcats possess an active secondary that is ranked 14th in the nation in allowing 181 yards per game.
It is for this reason that it will benefit the Volunteers to continue to keep a rather solid defense for Kentucky on its heels early and often. Besides, stopping the run has not been a strong point for the Wildcats' front four this year as they allow 176 yards per.
The defense for Tennessee has had to remain strong, particularly when one considers that the offense has had a tendency to struggle throughout the year. As pointed out, they are very much capable of stopping the run as well as opposing passing attacks. In fact, senior defensive back Nigel Warrior leads the Volunteers defensive secondary in picks with three.
- No trends to report
Trends from Covers.com
- Volunteers are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games on grass.
- Volunteers are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games overall.
- Volunteers are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 meetings.
- Volunteers are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 meetings in Kentucky.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
The Wildcats have struggled on the offensive end all season, as alluded to. Furthermore, with their two biggest playmakers in QB Sawyer along with Bowden, Jr. possibly being no-go's versus Tennessee, expect that they may indeed struggle yet again on Saturday versus what has been an active Volunteers defense. On the other hand, Tennessee enters this matchup with some momentum after their performances during their prior two outings. Their offense is beginning to show signs of life while their defense has come to play in recent weeks as well. Also, with the visitors having some success ATS at home versus the Wildcats, I will back the Vols in this instance.
Prediction: Tennessee Volunteers -1
Full-Game Total Pick
This is certainly shaping up to be a game in which the total will not surpass its limit. Yes, both offenses have had their fair share of struggles this year; However, they have each relied on their defensive units in order to allow them to remain competitive. Tennessee's offense may be hindered due to the absences of a couple offensive lineman while the Wildcats may not have the two linchpins that allow their offense to go. With that being the case, look for the under to be the strong play in this matchup as it has been the play in three of the last four games for the visitors while also being the result of the last five matchups for Kentucky.
Prediction: Under 41.5