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Tennessee Volunteers at Kentucky Wildcats: game preview

A weekly look at our upcoming opponent's recent history, with animated drive charts and links to SB Nation game pages.

This is a long post full of moving pictures and stats, so I'm putting the conclusions and predictions both at the beginning and at the end.

Conclusions

  • Sort of like Vandy, Kentucky doesn't pass the ball very well, but they are quite a bit better than the Commodores on the ground. Expect them to attack by running the ball.
  • Again, Kentucky suffers from the same sort of imbalance as Vanderbilt on defense (good against the pass, bad against the run), but they're better than the 'Cats at both. The Vols would be well-advised to return the favor and attack with the infantry.
  • Punt and kickoff coverage will be key for the Vols, as Kentucky is quite good at both.
  • Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke account for a huge percentage of Kentucky's offense. Stop those guys, and you stop Kentucky.

Predictions

  • Tennessee 21, Kentucky 19.

Schedule and Animated Drive Charts

Kentucky Logo
@ Miami (Ohio) RedHawks 9/5/09 win 42 - 0 coverage
Louisville Cardinals 9/19/09 win 31 - 27 coverage
Florida Gators 9/26/09 loss 7 - 41 coverage
Alabama Crimson Tide 10/3/09 loss 20 - 38 coverage
@ South Carolina Gamecocks 10/10/09 loss 26 - 28 coverage
@ Auburn Tigers 10/17/09 win 21 - 14 coverage
Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks 10/24/09 win 36 - 13 coverage
Mississippi St. Bulldogs 10/31/09 loss 24 - 31 coverage
Eastern Kentucky Colonels 11/7/09 win 37 - 12 coverage
@ Vanderbilt Commodores 11/14/09 win 24 - 13 coverage
@ Georgia Bulldogs 11/21/09 win 34 - 27 coverage

 

Kentucky and Tennessee against common opponents:

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National Unit Rankings

Now on to the national rankings.

OFFENSIVE RANKINGS
Category
National
Rank
Actual
National
Leader
Actual
Conf
Rank
Southeastern
Conference Leader
Actual
Rushing Offense
20
196.18
Nevada
373.18
5
Florida
229.91
Passing Offense
112
146.73
Houston
441.82
11
Arkansas
310.27
Total Offense
87
342.91
Houston
574.09
10
Arkansas
445.18
Scoring Offense
T-60
27.45
Boise St.
44.36
7
Arkansas
38.00
Passing Efficiency
105
111.70
Cincinnati
170.01
10
Florida
161.87
Sacks Allowed
28
1.27
Boise St.
.45
5
Alabama
1.00

 

Offensive observations. Solid on the ground + horrid through the air = 87th in the nation in total yards per game and right smack dab in the middle in total points. Checking . . . yes, sorta like Vandy, except that Kentucky's rushing game is quite a bit better, which makes the Wildcats' total yards and points numbers much better as well.

DEFENSIVE RANKINGS
Category
National
Rank
Actual
National
Leader
Actual
Conf
Rank
Southeastern
Conference Leader
Actual
Rushing Defense
98
179.27
Texas
50.09
11
Alabama
70.55
Pass Efficiency Defense
18
108.44
Alabama
82.52
5
Alabama
82.52
Total Defense
54
355.36
Alabama
225.18
8
Alabama
225.18
Scoring Defense
38
22.18
Florida
9.82
7
Florida
9.82
Pass Defense
14
176.09
Florida
139.27
6
Florida
139.27
Sacks
T-98
1.36
Pittsburgh
4.10
11
Florida
2.73
Tackles For Loss
85
5.09
Cincinnati
8.80
12
Mississippi
7.55

 

Defensive observations. Horrid against the run + solid against the pass = middle-ish in total yards allowed and top third in points allowed. Checking . . . yes, much like Vandy again, except less horrid and more solid. The Commodores do rank higher in pass defense, but Kentucky appears to be a better team overall defensively. They're not that good on our side of the scrimmage line, though.

SPECIAL TEAMS AND TURNOVERS RANKINGS
Category
National
Rank
Actual
National
Leader
Actual
Conf
Rank
Southeastern
Conference Leader
Actual
Net Punting
46
36.50
Georgia
42.84
4
Georgia
42.84
Punt Returns
23
12.88
Louisiana Tech
17.50
3
LSU
16.23
Kickoff Returns
26
24.02
TCU
30.16
7
Florida
26.15
Turnover Margin
43
.27
Rutgers
1.90
6
Alabama
1.18

 

Special teams and turnovers observations. Uh-oh. Kentucky appears to have fairly decent special teams, especially when it comes to punt and kickoff returns.

Stastical Comparison

Here's how the two teams stack up against each other in each of the key statistical categories in Hooper's wizbang BlogPoll Computerer:

 
WL
SOS
PED
RD
3DO
TD
PEO
OPPG
TO
3DD
RTT RANK
Tennessee Logo
54
35
11
60
64
20
41
28
56
23
36
Kentucky Logo
39
45
18
98
62
54
105
38
87
64
49

 

So Tennessee's compiled a mostly-better resume against a stronger schedule and has a chance to even up the win/loss column Saturday.

 
Tennessee Logo
Delta
Kentucky Logo
 
SOS
35
10
45
SOS
TD
20
67
87
TO
TO
56
-2
54
TD
PED
11
94
105
PEO
3DD
23
39
62
3DO
PEO
64
-46
18
PED
3DO
64
0
64
3DD

 

According to that, we should make it harder on them than they should on us. We could have trouble in the passing game and on third down.

Players to watch for

Category
Player
National
Rank
Actual
Rushing Derrick Locke
49
82.10
  Randall Cobb
43.60
Passing Efficiency (Min. 15 Att./Game)  
Total Offense Derrick Locke
86.20
  Randall Cobb
48.20
Receptions Per Game Randall Cobb
3.30
  Chris Matthews
2.64
Receiving Yards Per Game Randall Cobb
40.30
Interceptions Sam Maxwell
T-11
.45
  Calvin Harrison
T-72
.27
  Randall Burden
.18
Punting (Min. 3.6 Punts/Game) Ryan Tydlacka
69
40.45
Punt Returns (Min. 1.2 Ret./Game) Randall Cobb
16
13.27
Kickoff Returns (Min. 1.2 Ret./Game) Derrick Locke
6
30.47
  Randall Cobb
45
25.17
Field Goals Lones Seiber
T-98
.73
Scoring Randall Cobb
T-22
8.40
  Lones Seiber
5.45
  Derrick Locke
4.80
All-Purpose Runners Derrick Locke
17
156.00
  Randall Cobb
T-28
143.30
Sacks DeQuin Evans
T-92
.45
  Corey Peters
.36
Tackles Micah Johnson
T-96
7.64
  Sam Maxwell
6.64
  Danny Trevathan
6.27
Tackles For Loss Corey Peters
T-69
1.00
  DeQuin Evans
T-87
.95


Observations

Um, wow. That there's a whole lotta Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke. CobbLocke is a do-everything tandem, with Locke ranked 17th in the nation in all-purpose running and Cobb right behind him in the same category, tied at 28th. Cobb is also tied for 22nd in scoring with 8.4 points per game.

Running backs. Derrick Locke is averaging 82.10 yards per game, and he broke the 100-yard threshold against Vandy (144), Mississippi State (108), and Auburn (137). Randall Cobb adds another 43.6 yards on the ground.

Quarterbacks. Morgan Newton took over under center when Mike Hartline suffered an injury against South Carolina in the 5th game of the season. He's been averaging 88.6 yards through the air and 7.3 rushes and 14 yards per game. He has not completed a touchdown pass in six games, but he's rushed for two.

Receivers/Tight Ends. Randall Cobb is the team's leading receiver, getting 3.3 catches for 40 yard per game.

Defense. Linebacker Sam Maxwell and defensive back Calvin Harrison are responsible for Kentucky's solid pass defense with both of them ranked nationally in interceptions. Maxwell is particularly good, ranked 11th, as he's had interceptions in five different games this year. Other notables on defense are defensive linemen DeQuin Evans and Corey Peters and linebacker Micah Johnson.

Special teams. Kentucky is excellent on punt and kickoff returns. Why? Because of CobbLocke. Cobb ranks 16th in punt returns with an average of 13.27, and Locke ranks in kickoff returns 6th with 30.47. Oh, and you can't just not kick to Locke because Cobb's the other guy back there, and he ranks 45th with 25.17 yards per kickoff return. Cobb's returned one punt for a TD, and Locke's returned on kickoff for a TD.

Head to Head Comparisons

  Tennessee Logo Kentucky Logo
Best Comparable
Result Against Best Comparable
Prediction
UT rush v. KY rush defense
164.91
(#48)
179.27
(#98)
Memphis
(176.45)
(#96)
137
200
UT pass v. KY pass defense
226.09
(#48)
176.09
(#14)
Vanderbilt
(164.92)
(#9)
221
220
KY rush v. UT rush defense
141.27
(#60)
196.18
(#20)
Auburn
(219.55)
(#11)
224
220
KY pass v. UT pass defense
171.91
(#13)
146.73
(#112)
Vanderbilt
(146.33)
(#114)
174
170
UT scoring offense v. KY scoring defense
30.64
(#33)
22.18
(#38)
South Carolina
(20.73)
(#28)
31
21
KY scoring offense v. UT scoring defense
20.73
(T-#28)
27.45
(T-#60)
Georgia
(27.45)
(T-#60)
19
19

 

Again, this is not math, but an informed guess. UT rushed for 137 yards against Memphis, but the gameplan focused heavily on the pass, and I don't think that makes sense here, so I'm going with 200 yards rushing. We passed for 221 against Vandy, and although I think we'll lean on the ground game even more against Kentucky, the Wildcats are not quite as good as the Commodores, so I'm guessing about the same yards through the air.

We held Auburn to 224 yards, and although Kentucky has Locke and Cobb and a bit of a running QB, you might have heard on the podcast last night from the Kentucky guys that most of their yards are gained in bite-sized chunks rather than huge plays. With Janzen Jackson back, hopefully we can contain Kentucky's rushing game to about the same degree we did Auburn's. Yeah, I know that "wasn't very well." I'm just hoping for not worse.

Vandy and Kentucky are essentially the same team when passing the ball, so I'm guessing we can hold them to 170 yards or so.

Kentucky and Georgia are tied in scoring offense, and Georgia got quite lucky on non-offensive scoring, so I'm going with 19 points for Kentucky as well. And although we scored 31 points against South Carolina, we were helped with turnovers and great starting field position, so I'm backing that 31 points down to 21.

Conclusions

  • Sort of like Vandy, Kentucky doesn't pass the ball very well, but they are quite a bit better than the Commodores on the ground. Expect them to attack from the ground.
  • Again, Kentucky suffers from the same sort of imbalance (good against the pass, bad against the run) as Vandy on defense, but they're better at both. The Vols would be well-advised to return the favor and attack with the infantry.
  • Punt and kickoff coverage will be key for the Vols, as Kentucky is quite good at both.
  • Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke account for a huge percentage of Kentucky's offense. Stop those guys, and you stop Kentucky.

Predictions

  • Tennessee 21, Kentucky 19.