This Saturday’s Tennessee-Kentucky game feels a little strange, at least for traditionalists. The Wildcats are coming in as the 11th ranked team in the country at 7-2, while Tennessee is simply looking to steal a win and get to a bowl game.
Kentucky hasn’t won in Neyland Stadium since 1984. They’ve won just twice in this series since that day in 1984, which includes last year’s 29-26 defeat.
“I followed Coach Stoops at Florida State, so I know firsthand what his teams are all about,” Pruitt began on Kentucky. “They’re going to be very well coached and hard-nosed. He does a fantastic job evaluating talent. They have a lot of experience. They start 15 seniors, you can see it on both sides of the ball. They’re tough and physical, they can run the football offensively. They have a very athletic quarterback. It seems like some of these guys have been playing forever. They have playmakers on the outside.”
You can’t talk about Kentucky for too long without getting into star running back Benny Snell. The 5-11, 223 pound junior running back quite simply is Kentucky’s offense. He’s already over 1,000 yards on the season and has punched through for ten touchdowns this year.
“He’s a tough guy,” Pruitt said of Snell on Monday. “They do a lot with him, lots of Wildcat, so he can obviously handle what they do. They used him a lot as a freshman, which is the last time I coached against him. He’s very physical, but he doesn’t take a lot of one-on-one hits. He runs through the soft shoulder, so it’s tough to get him squared up. We’ll have to do a really good job of gang-tackling him.”
Paired with Snell is a really good defense on the other side of the ball. The Wildcats rank 15th right now in total defense, a massive reason why Kentucky is where they are right now. They rank 33rd against the run and 17th against the pass. Giving up just over 300 total yards per game, Tennessee’s struggling offense has their work cut out for them on Saturday.
“Defensively, they’re sound and they stop the run,” Pruitt said. “They’re really good in the red area. They give you multiple looks and they’ve got good pass rushers. They have good guys out on the edges that can deny the ball. Special teams, they give you multiple looks and they have good returners. The punter does an outstanding job. We’ll have to be at our best and it will be a tremendous challenge for us.”
The Vols and Wildcats face off on Saturday at 3:30 PM eastern on SEC Network.