The staff went 6-1 both straight up and against the spread last week, with five of the seven members picking Tennessee to keep it close but ultimately fall to Alabama. And indeed, the Vols kept it close, giving themselves a lead and a good chance to win midway through the fourth quarter, but the Crimson Tide pulled it out 19-14. Closest to the Pin goes to Will, whose 30-20 prediction was just five points off the margin and 17 points off the total. But Will was edged out in the comments by yrekacavol, who was the only one in the thread to correctly predict a close, low-scoring affair. He had the Vols coming out on top 21-17, but he made up for being nine points off the margin by only being five points off the total.
This week, the quality of competition drops immensely, and Tennessee's task is to stay focused and leverage their talent advantage. Can they do it? Absolutely. Will they? Let's see what the staff thinks.
Incipient (4-3 straight up, 4-3 against the spread): Fun fact: six out of Kentucky's seven games this season have been decided by eight points or less. Fun fact 2.0: before last weekend's game against Mississippi State, UK's most heavily favored opponent had been South Carolina, who was -7 when they hosted the Cats in week two. Which is to say, they've played a lot of close games against teams that weren't very good. And one against Florida, who everyone thought at the time wasn't very good. The Cats defense hasn't exactly had to run the gauntlet, but they still haven't looked great, giving up 33 to Louisiana-Lafayette, 27 to Eastern Kentucky, 30 to Auburn, and 42 to a Mississippi State team that hadn't eclipsed 20 in SEC play previously. While the Vols have had their share of struggles on offense, they've generally moved the ball pretty well against the non-elite defenses, so as long as they're focused after a tough loss (which, if Butch's history is any indication, they will be), they should put up points. The Tennessee defense has been a bit more hit-and-miss, but Kentucky's offense is no juggernaut, and a solid performance on both sides of the ball should lead to a comfortable win. Tennessee 34 Kentucky 20
Hunter (3-4 straight up, 4-3 against the spread): The Vols should win this game going away:
- Kentucky isn't as good as I'd thought they'd be entering the season; and,
- Tennessee is much improved from the team that shellacked the Wildcats 50-16 last year.
Note: I predicted a 28-14 win in my Q&A with A Sea of Blue, but the more I think about it, the more I think this game is likely to be high-scoring. We'll see if that results in a Dan Rubenstein-style curse against the over/under.
Chris (5-2 straight up, 5-2 against the spread): 1. Lane Kiffin's pseudonym when going out in Lexington is John Calimanly.