With one day remaining before the big game in Neyland Stadium, the Cats are looking to upset the #3 ranked Volunteers and, in the process, may need to dodge a few mustard bottles. With that being said, Tennessee is knocking on the door to their first trip to the College Football Playoff and would be in contention for their first national championship since 1998.
Kentucky is currently 1-1 against current UT quarterback Hendon Hooker, but Hooker has the second highest odds to win the Heisman Award (+2200) according to sports.betmgm.com. In the studs second season at Tennessee, he has thrown 137/194 (70.6) for a total of 2,093 yards (299 per game). Hooker is a patient quarterback that makes good decisions, as he has only thrown one interception in the entirety of the 2022 season. Hooker comes into Saturdays game with a total of 18 passing touchdowns. Hooker has 315 rushing yards this season, averaging 5 yards per carry and a total of 3 touchdowns on the run.
For a receiver that came into the season ranked third on the depth chart, Jalin Hyatt has made a name for himself. Hyatt caught 5 TOUCHDOWNS against Alabama and has 12 for the year. Nevertheless, several reports show that star wide receiver Cedric Tillman will be returning from injury, after not seeing action since September 17th, and in that time has had surgery on his ankle. Tillman will not be 100% healthy by Saturday, but the Cats' secondary could have a long night if they don't keep the star receivers in front of them. The unorthodox offense will move the receivers closer to the sidelines, creating more grass for receivers to get open, as well as take the inside linebackers completely out of pass defense.
Much of the offense will rely on the run, despite the attention the receivers are getting. With about a 60/40 blend of run and pass, the trio of Dylan Sampson, Jaylen Wright and Jabari Small will keep the Kentucky defense on their toes. Jabari Small has gotten the most touches this year, so far, and has capitalized by averaging 4.5 yards an attempt and scoring 8 touchdowns. With the pass offense being such a focal point this week during practice, there is no doubt the Vols will use that to their advantage to open up their run game.
Volunteer Front 7
The biggest concern of the season so far has been the consistency of the Kentucky offensive line. Although Tennessee has given up plenty of points this season, they will get pressure on star quarterback Will Levis. The Volunteer defense has caused 125 QB pressures on the season and star defensive lineman Byron Young has 3.5 sacks on the season. With the improved play of Kentucky right tackle Deondre Buford, it is very important to set the tone early and not allow any kind of pressure that could give up a sack, or worse.
The Volunteer faithful will be another tough challenge for the Cats, as the place will be sold out and rowdy. The fanbase will do their part to make sure the Volunteers win and Kentucky will have to play an almost perfect game to bring the barrel back to Lexington. Go Big Blue.