For me, this is the least winnable game that is on this list. It is important because Kentucky needs to be able to prove that they can play tough against a rival team that has historically smacked them. It’s also important because it will be a good game to see whether or not Kentucky can actually neutralize a running quarterback.
The Wildcats were torched last year by Josh Dobbs, who ran for two touchdowns and threw for two more in a 52-21 trouncing on Halloween night. Tennessee came out in the third quarter, after only leading by 10 points at halftime, and effectively ended the game by driving the ball down the Wildcats throat and proceeding to cause an interception on Kentucky’s next drive and then scoring on their first play from offense. Kentucky just could not stop Tennessee from scoring and were demoralized by the end of the third quarter.
My hopes for this year are that Kentucky has finally learned how to contain running Quarterbacks. Dak Prescott, Dobbs and Will Grier all singlehandedly beat the Cats last year because of their mobility and playmaking with their feet. Kentucky is going to need their defensive ends to step up this year if they have any shot at beating any mobile quarterback. Courtney Miggins is going to have to step up his play and lead the pass rush for Kentucky, which was absolutely pathetic last year totaling only 17 sacks as a team. Pressure is going to be the name of the game for Kentucky to be able to neutralize Josh Dobbs in this game so that he doesn’t have time to sit back and be able to see the whole field, passing and running, before he makes his decision.
Even if Kentucky is able to stop Dobbs, they still have Jalen Hurd to worry about and they also have to worry about scoring. Tennessee landed defensive coordinator Bob Shoop in the offseason, and he is taking over a young and talented defense that is projected to be even better than last year now that Shoop is in control. They still have Evan Berry in the secondary and Jalen Reeves-Maybin, who is on the Butkus watch.
Kentucky is going to have a hard time in this game, but I think that it is important for their season because it will show how far this team has actually come in the past two plus years and could be a game that turns the program around if they pull off the massive upset.