Kentucky football looks to bounce back against Tennessee


Kentucky quarterback Stephen Johnson hurdles Missouri safety Thomas Wilson during the game against Missouri Saturday, October 7, 2017 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won the game 40-34.

Roman West

The Wildcats and the Volunteers are looking to get back on the right path after both teams suffered 45-7 losses on Saturday.

Kentucky lost to Mississippi State in Starkville, Mississippi, and Tennessee lost to Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Last season, the Cats put up 36 points against the Vols, the third most they had ever scored against the Vols in a regulation game, in a losing effort.

If Kentucky can get their second win against the Tennessee in their last 33 attempts, they will become bowl eligible and keep their hopes of an SEC East title alive. 

The Volunteers have had a rough start to SEC play, starting 0-4 with losses to Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama. Tennessee head coach Butch Jones is on the hot seat, and a loss to Kentucky might be what pushes him out the door.

To keep this from happening, Tennessee will rely heavily on their dynamic running back, John Kelly. Kelly is a junior from Detroit, Michigan and was just added to the watch list for the Maxwell award, given to the best player in college football.

Kelly has rushed for over 100 yards three times this season, including a career high 141 yards against Florida. The Vols have also started a new quarterback in their last two games, Jarrett Guarantano, who is emerging as a key part to their offense.

Kentucky’s best defense since 2011 will be looking to slow down Tennessee’s playmakers on offense. The Wildcats are allowing only 24.7 points per game and are allowing only 123.6 rushing yards per game, which is good enough for 26th nationally. 

The defense is headlined by UK’s “Blitz Bros” Josh Allen and Denzil Ware and the up-and-coming “Blitz Baby” freshman Josh Paschal. Allen has 14 sacks and 18.5 tackles for a loss in his 32 career games to go along with six fumbles, and interception and seven quarterback hurries. 

His “blitz bro” Ware has registered nine sacks and 21.5 tackles for a loss in his 31 career games. He has also forced three fumbles, recovered three fumbles, returned one fumble for a touchdown and hurried the quarterback nine times.

The “Blitz Bros” protégé Paschal already has two tackles for a loss, a sack and a blocked punt this season.

Kentucky’s offense starts with senior quarterback Stephen Johnson. Johnson has cemented himself in UK football lore, starting his career as a backup to Kentucky-born Drew Barker, then taking over after a season-ending injury to Barker. Since taking over the starting quarterback job, Johnson has won 12 of 18 games.

This season, Johnson was named a top 20 candidate for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. Johnson is currently third all-time in UK history for most game-winning drives in the fourth quarter/overtime in a career with four.

Vegas oddsmakers like Kentucky to beat Tennessee on Saturday, opening with the Cats as 5.5 point favorites. ESPN FPI gives UK a 56.2 percent chance to win the game and NumberFire predicts a 23-17 win for the Cats.

The game will kick off on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Kroger Field and will air on the SEC Network.