How to watch
When: Sat., Oct. 29
Time: 7pm ET, 6pm CT
TV: ESPN network
Stream: fuboTV (Start your free trial)
More college football on SI: College football scores | College football rankings | College football schedule
Odds, point spread, betting lines
Line: Tennessee -13
Tennessee ATS: 6-1
Kentucky ATS: 5-2
Over / under: 63.5
Moneyline: UK +370, UT -578
FPI pick: Tennessee 82.9%
Related: Tennessee vs. Kentucky picks, predictions: Week 9 college football odds, spread, lines
Tennessee vs. Kentucky: What you need to know
1. QB battle. Two of the SEC’s three best quarterbacks will be on the same field Saturday. Hendon Hooker has been the engine behind college football’s No. 1 total offense, throwing for over 2,000 yards while hitting on almost 71% of his passes for 18 TDs and 1 pick. Kentucky’s Will Levis is a projected first round NFL Draft pick completing almost 70% with 13 scores and 5 INTs. He should find some lanes against a Vols secondary that ranks 130th out of 131 in FBS in pass defense, as he did last season in a close game.
2. No one can stop the Vols. Or in particular, Jalin Hyatt. The wide receiver went off against Alabama, catching six passes, scoring on five of them, and going over 200 yards. Hyatt has scored two or more TDs in three straight games and has scored 12 times this season. Kentucky’s top-15 ranked pass defense has its work cut out trying to slow him down. Especially if the Vols get Cedric Tillman back in the rotation. Having those two deep threats out there at the same time could be too much for the Wildcats.
3. Kentucky catch-up. The best way to keep Tennessee from scoring is to hold the ball and keep that offense off the field. That’s something UK can do moderately well, not dominating time of possession, but holding the ball for around 35 minutes per game and consistently moves the chains. Levis shouldn’t have too much trouble getting to 300 yards in the air (UT Martin did) and he’ll have help in back Chris Rodriguez, who’s almost to 400 yards and has 3 TD in four games this season.
+ Kentucky has held its last 11 opponents to 24 points or fewer, going 9-2 in that time
+ Tennessee is 2nd nationally scoring points on 61.3% of drives
+ Levis is 7th nationally and 2nd in SEC in pass efficiency (173.3 rating)
+ Vols are 1st nationally scoring 50.1 points per game
+ UK has allowed fewer than 400 yards in 11 straight games
+ Jalin Hyatt is 1st with 8 catches of 40-plus yards
+ Kentucky is 20-9 in games decided by 7 or fewer pts since 2016
+ Vols are 8th nationally allowing 90.0 rushing yards per game
+ Kentucky has allowed 30 or fewer points in 53 of its last 59 games
+ Tennessee is 14-0 when leading at halftime and 0-6 when trailing under Josh Heupel
+ UK is 4-34-1 all-time against ranked Tennessee teams
+ Vols have scored 40 points in 12 of Heupel’s 20 games at UT
+ Kentucky is 45-7 under Mark Stoops when leading at halftime and 10-43 when not
+ Tennessee’s 351 points so far are 1st nationally and the SEC’s most through 7 games since LSU in 2019
+ Wildcats are 7-32 under Stoops allowing more than 30 points
+ Tennessee has scored 30 points in 10 straight games
Tennessee vs. Kentucky Prediction
Breaking news: Tennessee can score a touchdown a minute if it gets into rhythm. It has the quarterback and the receivers to match just about any team in the country point for point.
And it shouldn’t have too much trouble protecting Hendon Hooker in the pocket against a Kentucky edge rush that leaves much to be desired.
But the Wildcats have the power to slow this thing down, balance its offense out, and steadily move the chains and bleed clock. And the precision in Levis ‘right arm to test the Vols’ lackadaisical back seven with some regularity.
Tennessee won’t be too phased by Kentucky’s attempts to drag down the pace of the game, with the weapons to get deep quick and make up for lost time with a variety of routes that can put the Wildcats out of position and create space in the deeper portion of the field.
College Football HQ Prediction: Tennessee 38, Kentucky 27
According to AP top 25 poll
1. Georgia (31 1st-place votes)
2. Ohio State (18)
3. Tennessee (13)
5. Clemson (1)
9. Oklahoma State
T-10. Wake Forest
13. Penn State
15. Ole Miss
21. North Carolina
22. Kansas State
24. NC State
25. South Carolina
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