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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 24, 12:21 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Neyland Stadium (102,455) -- Knoxville, Tennessee. Television: SEC Network. Home Record: UK 2-5, UT 3-3. Away Record: UK 0-4, UT 0-4. Neutral Record: UK 0-0, UT 1-0. Conference Record: UK 0-7, UT 0-7. Series Record: Tennessee leads, 74-24-9.
GAME NOTES: Two SEC Eastern Division cellar-dwellers will be given their last chances to win their first conference game this season when the Kentucky Wildcats head to Knoxville to take on the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday afternoon.
Kentucky fell into a serious slide this season with a eight-game losing streak, but it was able to snap that skid last week with a 34-3 win over Samford. Still, the Wildcats have not won an SEC game since Nov. 24, 2011, when they, oddly enough, defeated Tennessee at home, 10-7.
The down year cost head coach Joker Phillips his job.
Tennessee has been one of the conference's biggest disappointments. While it has won all four of its non-league games, it has gone winless in the SEC, most recently dropping back-to-back games against Missouri (51-48) and Vanderbilt (41-18). Following their latest loss, the Vols announced the firing of head coach of Derek Dooley, who had put together three straight losing seasons during his tenure in Knoxville. Jim Chaney will act serve as interim head coach.
The Vols have a handle on the all-time series with Kentucky, 74-24-9, which includes a 39-10-6 mark in Knoxville.
Kentucky not only has the worst offense in the SEC (18.0 ppg, 306.2 ypg) but one of the worst in the nation, ranking 116th in scoring offense and 115th in total offense. The unit managed to get back on track against FCS program Samford last week with 455 yards.
A lack of continuity at the quarterback position is a big reason for the Wildcats' struggles. Ever since Maxwell Smith (975 yards, eight TDs) went down in September, neither Jalen Whitlow (58-of-116, 576 yards, two TDs, INT) nor Patrick Towles (18-of-39, 213 yards, TD, INT) has performed well.
Naturally, the receiving corps has suffered with the lackluster play under center. La'Rod King leads the team with 38 receptions, 410 yards, and four touchdowns, and no other player has more than 300 receiving yards.
While not spectacular, the running back duo of Raymond Sanders (615 yards, five TDs) and Jonathan George (445 yards, three TDs) have been solid in the backfield.
The UK defense has not played up to snuff either, allowing more than 30 ppg, although it held Samford to just 102 yards.
Donte Rumph was named SEC Defensive Lineman of the week after recording a sack and a forced fumble a week ago, and he now has four sacks on the season. Avery Williamson (128 tackles, three sacks, INT) has been the unit's best player. He's the SEC's leading tackler and he ranks third in the nation with 11.6 tackles per game.
It's hard to blame the Tennessee offense for the team's struggles this year, as it averages 36.1 ppg and 477.6 ypg.
Tyler Bray has put together an outstanding season as he leads the conference in both passing yards (3,319) and passing touchdowns (30). He is coming off perhaps the worst outing of his career against Vanderbilt however, as he completed just 11-of-29 passes for a touchdown and two interceptions before being pulled in the second half.
Justin Hunter has been Bray's preferred target, and with 70 receptions for 1,018 yards and eight touchdowns, he ranks third in the conference in each category. The receiving corps is incredibly deep. Cordarrelle Patterson (42 receptions, 690 yards) and Mychal Rivera (31 receptions, 498 yards) have caught four touchdowns apiece and Zach Rogers (30 receptions, 463 yards) has six scores.
Rajion Neal has racked up 655 rushing yards and nine touchdowns (four receiving) despite missing a pair of games. Marlin Lane (583 yards, two TDs) has also been effective out of the backfield, having notched a pair of 100- yard rushing games over the past three weeks.
There hasn't been much to like about Tennessee's defense this season, as it ranks 111th in FBS in scoring allowance (37.4 ppg).
Despite the terrible defensive effort overall, A.J. Johnson (124 tackles, 6.5 TFL) and Byron Moore (83 tackles, five INTs) have been able to distance themselves as premiere playmakers.
The offseason cannot come soon enough for these squads, as both are in need of a major overhaul if they want to competitive in the SEC anytime soon. Tennessee has found ways to lose lately, so it shouldn't shock anyone if it drops this one, but the Vols should find enough inspiration to win one at home against a sorry Kentucky squad.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Tennessee 45, Kentucky 35
11/21 10:53:33 ET
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