On Saturday, 29 Nov 2008, the Kentucky Wildcats (6 -5, 2-5 SEC) travel to Knoxville to attempt to defeat the Tennessee Volunteers (2-5, 4-7) for the first time in 23 years and improve their ‘bowling’ opportunities in the final SEC football matchup for each team this season. Kentucky is coming off of a bye week after losing another close game to the Vanderbilt Commodores two weeks ago (31-24). Tennessee is coming off of their biggest victory of the season defeating the Vanderbilt Commodores (20-10) last week playing solid physical football and only attempting nine passes in the victory! Overall, Tennessee leads the series against Kentucky 71-23-9 and won last year 52-50 in 4 overtimes.
Tennessee Volunteer Trends
The world (and all SEC Football fans) wondered what had happened to Tennessee football when the Wyoming Cowboys pulled a 25 point upset of the Vols on 8 November. Conventional wisdom has held that the emotions from the early announcement of Coach Fulmer’s release at the end of the season coupled with the fact that he didn’t want to leave the team were the cause. Last week against Vanderbilt, however, the Vols came up with a dominating performance and held Vandy quarterback Chris Nickson to -11 yards of offense.
Coach Fulmer also took the Vandy game to implement the ‘Wildcat’ offense against the Commodores with Junior Jon Crompton starting his first game since losing to Auburn on September 27th. In case you’ve missed the explanations on NFL broadcasts of the Miami Dolphins or other teams that use the Wildcat, the general idea of the system is a variation on the single-wing offense, normally typified by a direct snap to the running or tailback. With Coach Fulmer’s success against the Commodores with the Wildcat, it will be interesting to see if he tweaks his system to attack the Kentucky secondary more often than he did with Vanderbilt.
Kentucky Wildcat Trends
Kentucky is coming off of another close loss two weeks ago to Vandy. Two games in a row, freshman quarterback Randall Cobb has been in position in the opponent’s half of the field with less than a minute to go and a chance to tie or win…only to throw interceptions against both Georgia and Vandy. Easy to blame on the freshman’s lack of experience, but Wildcat fans only wonder what the bowling prospects would be if Cobb had connected for touchdowns in both games! Cobb has re-invigorated the Wildcat offense since Coach Brooks named him the starting quarterback; accounting for 216 yards of offense against the Commodores in basically half of the game. In the first half against Vandy, Kentucky had two roughing the punter penalties that resulted in very minimal time of possession for the Cats in the first half.
Look for Coach Brooks to continue to build on the success he’s had the last two games with the option attack. Tennessee will be looking to shut Cobb down like they did Vandy’s Chris Nickson, so the Cats will likely turn more to the air attack based on how the game progresses.
The official line for this SEC football game has the Volunteers favored by five and a half points by the odds makers. The emotions will be running high for the Tennessee team who looks to avoid the first eight loss season in school history. Kentucky is trying to regain momentum and an outside shot at going to the Chick-Fil-A Bowl vice the Liberty or Music City (would be a third year in a row) bowls. Our prediction – Tennessee wins but does not cover the spread.