Kentucky (5-5, 2-5 SEC) at Tennessee (4-5, 1-4)
When: 4 p.m.
Where: Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, Tenn.
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TV: SEC Network (play-by-play Tom Hart; analysis Matt Stinchcomb; sideline Heather Mitts)
Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1, XM Channel 190, Sirius Channel 93
Series: Tennessee leads 76-24-9
Last meeting: Tennessee won 27-14 on Nov. 30, 2013
Line: Tennessee is favored by 9 points.
THREE KEY QUESTIONS
1.) How much petrol does Kentucky have left in its tank?
Against a back-loaded schedule, the Cats are mired in a four-game losing streak. In two of those games, the 41-3 loss at LSU and the 63-31 beat-down last Saturday against Georgia, UK was not competitive. In the second half against the Bulldogs, UK appeared to be a team running on fumes. Tennessee will be the first non-ranked opponent that Kentucky has faced in its last five games. We'll find out if UK has enough juice left to make a viable push in Knoxville — a place where the Cats last won in 1984.
2.) Will UK special teams avert another meltdown?
Georgia's Isaiah McKenzie diced UK for both a kickoff return touchdown and a punt-return TD last week. In their last four games, the Cats have given up four kick-return scores (two off punts, two off kickoffs). The kicking game breakdowns have some Kentucky backers calling for the job of new special teams coach Craig Naivar. The special teams problems also saw Mark Stoops uncharacteristically call out in public sophomore defensive back J.D. Harmon for free-lancing outside the team concept in kick coverage. Amidst all this ill feeling, Kentucky must right the special teams ship to have any chance to silence Rocky Top.
3.) Can the Wildcats contain Joshua Dobbs?
Historically, dual-threat quarterbacks are the kryptonite of Kentucky defenses. After injuries finally forced Butch Jones to turn to true sophomore Dobbs at QB, the Alpharetta, Ga., product has starred. He led a spirited UT comeback in a 34-20 loss to Alabama. Then, two weeks ago, the 6-foot-3, 216 pounder torched South Carolina in the Volunteers' comeback 45-42 overtime win. Dobbs ran for 166 yards and three touchdowns vs. the Gamecocks while throwing for 301 yards (23-for-40 with one interception) and two TDs. It's just UK's luck that, by the time the Vols came up on the Wildcats' schedule, UT is using the QB who is apt to give Kentucky the most problems.
Yielded to frustration this week. Still, even amidst its four-game losing skid, Kentucky needs only one victory to achieve bowl eligibility. With UK having gone 1-28 against Tennessee in the schools' most recent 29 meetings, nothing would help Mark Stoops establish the perception of a new day in Kentucky football more than an unexpected victory in Neyland Stadium.