In the SEC, you don’t get many chances to breathe. However, that’s precisely what Tennessee got following their win against Alabama. The Volunteers knocked off Alabama 52-49 in one of the greatest college football games of all time.
It was a wild ride — an emotional victory that was 16 years in the making. After the dust settled and the goalposts were reinstalled, it was still gameweek once again. Luckily for Tennessee, that game was UT-Martin. You can’t ask for a better setup heading into the crucial next five games.
As everyone came off the high of taking down Alabama, sights were instantly set on Georgia. The No. 1 Bulldogs will be waiting in Athens on November 5th, setting up what could be (essentially) an SEC East title game. Athens will be absolutely rocking for a top five matchup, one that will absolutely have a massive impact on the College Football Playoff.
But hold on.
Tennessee has No. 19 Kentucky first. The Wildcats will visit Neyland Stadium on Saturday night, fully ready and capable of playing spoiler.
It’s the classic trap game.
“It doesn’t matter how you phrase it,” Josh Heupel said on Thursday. “The only one that matters as a competitor is the next one, right? Everybody is talking about the last one. You’re only as good as your next performance.”
Kentucky will bring one of the best quarterbacks in the country to town, along with a stout rushing attack led by Chris Rodriguez Jr. With Georgia on the horizon, it would be easy to look past this one. But to Josh Heupel’s credit, that hasn’t happened this year. Tennessee came out and smacked LSU on the road before the Alabama game. They dropped 52 points last week in just a single half after a shaky couple of minutes to start.
“Being able to refocus, regroup and be consistent,” Heupel continued. “What’s been great about this team, the reason it’s one week at a time up to this point, we’ve been able to find a way to be the best team on the field, is their preparation and the way they’ve practiced. Then at the end of the day you’ve got to go cut it loose on game day and play harder for longer than your opponent.”
Tennessee has been completely locked in pretty much all season long. Maybe outside of the first quarter in Pittsburgh, this team has come out ready to roll. A hot start against LSU put the tigers away early, and 28 quick points against Alabama had the Crimson Tide playing catch-up all afternoon.
A fast start on Saturday night would be big, considering how slow Kentucky likes to play. Mark Stoops wants to control the ball, and a couple of early scores might force that plan to change.
Tennessee remains a 12 point favorite, per DraftKings Sportsbook. Kickoff is set for Saturday night at 7 p.m. ET.