The Vols’ bid to get back to a bowl game continues this week as Tennessee takes on Kentucky, in Neyland Stadium at 3:30 ET (2:30 CST). The Wildcats are coming off of a heartbreaking 34-17 loss to Georgia, to lose the SEC East, while the Vols wobbled to a 14-3 victory over Charlotte. The 11th ranked Wildcats currently stand as a 6 point favorite in Knoxville, as many have the cats on upset alert.
So, how can the Vols pick up their second SEC win of the season? It’s all in the hands of the offensive line. Jarrett Guarantano has struggled throughout the season when put under pressure. The pass blocking for Tennessee is a massive key to the game because if Kentucky’s defensive line dominates the Vols’ offensive line, Tennessee will have practically no shot at upsetting Kentucky. If Guarantano has time to throw the ball like he did vs Auburn, the game will be tight through 4 quarters.
The story is similar when running the ball. Last week, when the Vols took on Charlotte, Tennessee’s offensive line was unable to open up holes for the running backs, as Tennessee had a measly 20 rushing yards vs the 49ers. Ty Chandler and Tim Jordan must have big games to try to open up the play-action pass for Guarantano.
In addition, keep an eye on the Vols’ tight end, Dominick Wood-Anderson, who will be a major threat to the Kentucky defense, if Guarantano has the time to find him. He has recovered from an injury he sustained against South Carolina, so we’ll see if he can come back with a breakout game. Also, look for some 50-50 balls to Marquez Callaway & Jauan Jennings, as that was the Vols’ bread and butter when they upset Auburn.
In all, only time will tell if the Volunteers can pull off the upset tomorrow. But if the offensive line can have a decent game and protect Guarantano, I like the Vols’ chances.