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JOE COX: Kentucky-Tennessee Showdown Should Be Halloween Thriller


Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A talented football team, playing a bit under its level in the last few games, plays a pivotal home game against another SEC team that has pretty much owned it for the past few years. That team pulls off a mild surprise of a win, and sets itself up for a weak back end of its schedule.


Sounds a lot like Tennessee and their home win over Georgia.

But it might also sound like Kentucky and their home win over Tennessee.

It’s the first time since 1944 that UK plays Tennessee before November, and if what will be a packed and rowdy Commonwealth Stadium has anything to say about it, UK will deliver a haunting victory over the Volunteers on Halloween night.

Saturday’s 42-16 loss to Mississippi State was embarrassing at times, particularly in the defensive side of the ball. So what needs to change to deliver a memorable upset just a week later? Well, let’s take a peak back.

UPSIDES

Freshman tight end C.J. Conrad is everything he was hoped to be. It wouldn’t hurt his game if Towles looked for him a little more often in the passing game, but he’s been a devastating blocker and his six catches for 56 yards was a nice performance. UK will need those types of games to continue over the latter half of the season.

Boom Williams had 95 yards on 18 carries, as he became the 35th member of UK’s 1000 yard rushing club. Hopefully, Boom can keep the big plays on the edge going, but decrease the big losses that MSU sometimes caught him in.

Austin MacGinnis did miss one field goal, after Stoops inadvertently iced him by calling timeout on a made kick, but he stands an excellent chance of owning every UK field goal record before his career ends.

DOWNSIDES

Defense, defense, defense. Allowing 586 yards is not exactly positioning your offense to win. Dak Prescott absolutely had his way. He passed at will, he ran at will, and at one point he ran against a UK front with three players “in the box.” Net result? Touchdown. It was that kind of night.

UK’s receiver corps. More big plays, less dropping passes, please. Towles was not on one of his better games, but Johnny Unitas, Ken Stabler, and Troy Aikman couldn’t have combined to lead the UK receiving corps to success.

For the second week in a row, the coaching staff is on the hot list. Mark Stoops is a defensive coach. It is completely inexcusable for UK to get manhandled defensively, sometimes based off of wild misalignment. I don’t know if Stoops and D.J. Eliot are clashing, if the players aren’t paying attention, or if something is lost in translation from the coaches to the kids, but late in year three, this shouldn’t happen.

WHERE ARE WE—SEC POWER RANKINGS

1. LSU (7-0) I think they’re playing better all around football than Alabama right now. 2. Alabama (7-1) Can’t wait for LSU/Bama. 3. Ole Miss (6-2) Don’t know what to think about this team. 4. Florida (6-1) Can wrap up the east by beating Georgia. 5. Mississippi State (6-2) Dan Mullen is the most underrated coach in the SEC, and maybe in all of college football. 6. Georgia (5-2) This year might get ugly if Florida thumps them. 7. Texas A&M (5-2) Switching QBs. Yuck. *GIGANTIC GAP* 8. Tennessee (3-4) If they handle UK, they’ll go 8-4. 9. Arkansas (3-4) The SEC West’s trash wo