The Tennessee Volunteers will take on the No. 18 Kentucky Wildcats in Lexington on Saturday, November 6 at 7:00 p.m. ET at Kroger Field.
Heading into Week 10, the Vols are 4-4 through eight games, 2-3 in SEC play, whereas Kentucky is 6-2, 4-2 in SEC play. The two-game difference in their records have the Wildcats sitting comfortably at second in the SEC East with Tennessee and three other teams tied for third in the SEC East at 4-4.
Therefore, the Tennessee-Kentucky game allows the Vols to make a statement in head coach Josh Heupel's first year, avenging last year's 34-7 loss in Neyland and moving closer to second in the SEC East ranks behind No. 1 Georgia. The game also means a lot for the players, especially for seniors such as cornerback Alontae Taylor. During Tuesday's press conference, Taylor noted, "We don't lose to Kentucky, and we didn't take care of that last year. This game is personal."
With one of the most anticipated games for Tennessee year in, year out on the horizon, the VR2 staff predicts what will happen in the border battle.
This is the most important game on Tennessee's schedule in 2021, in my opinion. I have felt that way for a while, and I think it holds true. The Vols are healthier and Kentucky is licking its wounds after two straight losses. I expect the environment to still be a good one with the sellout crowd.
This one could go a couple of different ways, but I think Kentucky takes a step back towards its identity of controlling the line of scrimmage, which will make this game closer down the stretch, as they work to counteract Josh Huepel's tempo.
Still, I think the Vols are going to create alignment issues, explosive plays and mismatches with the Kentucky secondary. I like Tennessee to go on the road and get their first win over a road opponent in the Josh Heupel era.
Tennessee 38, Kentucky 28
Tennessee is coming off a bye and injuries should not be anywhere close to the problem they have been in weeks past. Josh Heupel noted throughout this week's media availabilities that the offensive line is the healthiest it has been all season. Assuming Heupel is right, and other guys such as Tiyon Evans and Elijah Simmons will be full goes, Tennessee will come into Lexington as a team the college football world is yet to see all year.
Sure, Tennessee was healthy at the beginning of the year... but Joe Milton was the starter.
Hendon Hooker is growing, and his poise has electrified this Vol offense at times, and Tiyon Evans is a machine, quite frankly. When No. 8 is healthy and getting the bulk of the carries, good things tend to happen for Tennessee.
I expect that to happen in Lexington. Kentucky's defense is solid, and this game won't see offense everywhere all the time, but the Vols offense will give the Wildcats defense more fits than Kentucky's offense gives Tennessee's defense.
A close one on Kroger Field, Tennessee avenges last year's loss in Heupel's first year, winning the border.
Tennessee 38, Kentucky 27.
Win or lose, this game is one that will be a major takeaway for the Vols, with bragging rights on the line between two proud fan bases.
Also, a win would put Tennessee just one victory from bowl eligibility, with matchups against Vanderbilt and South Alabama left on the schedule.
Kentucky is currently ranked No. 18 in the AP Poll, though the Wildcats didn’t play like it last week and will likely come out hungry to avenge an unexpected loss against Mississippi State.
With Tennessee having its full roster available again, though, I have to lean in favor of the Vols — especially after Alontae Taylor’s statement earlier this week:
“One thing I heard when I came in (to play at Tennessee) is that you don’t lose to Kentucky and we didn’t have that happen last year,” Taylor said.
“I was watching a video when we had the goal-line stop against Kentucky at Kentucky (in 2019) and it kind of gave me chills. I was like, ‘That’s who we are.’ So this game is personal.”
Combine that emotion with that of Jeremy Banks, throw in a fully healthy Hendon Hooker with an offensive line that’s good to go, and add a hungry Tiyon Evans, and I think Tennessee will find its groove in a hurry on a cold night in Lexington.
Tennessee 35, Kentucky 21
In a game where it truly matters which version of each team shows up, both teams have to be on their game tonight.
Both teams have had solid defensive play most the year, but they have also had games where the offenses were lights out. This game may come down to which defense is playing best and which one holds up for the duration of the game. If Tennessee can make some early stops and stay out of a hole, they will have a great shot to win. It helps that the Vols are coming off the bye week and getting some guys back healthy, specifically at QB.
Tennessee 35, Kentucky 24
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