SHANE SHACKLEFORD: Cats, Vols Battle in Dramatic Showdown With Season on Line
Okay. I realize this is a very dramatic headline for an October SEC East game. Usually seasons aren’t made or broken this time of the year.
But there is something different about this game, Tennessee vs. Kentucky, this time.
This game is ripe with drama. High drama.
Let’s run through the two main ingredients of “a dramatic game,” shall we?
Both teams need this win badly? Check. Kentucky (5-2, 2-2 SEC) and Tennessee (3-4, 0-4 SEC) need a win Saturday in the worse way.
The Cats would love to reach six wins (for bowl eligibility), 3-2 in the SEC East and hope for help catching Georgia, and get a rare win over the Vols. A loss by Kentucky deflates the balloon some more, brings out the doubters, and completely stalls any momentum the Cats had.
The Vols, however, need any win they can get. Their season is in shambles currently. Tennessee’s total offense is dead last in the SEC and their defense isn’t much better. They need something positive desperately.
Kentucky to solidify a breakthrough season, Tennessee just to survive another week.
Coaches on either the hot seat or being scrutinized? Check. Kentucky coach Mark Stoops, either fairly or unfairly, is being questioned among the fanbase. I think it is very unfair to do this. Stoops has rebuilt the program, pardon the term, brick by brick.
Remember 2-10? I do. 5-2 sounds pretty good compared to that, doesn’t it?
Tennessee head coach Butch Jones is catching serious heat in Knoxville. The Vols offense hasn’t scored a touchdown in 3-plus games. The defense has been riddled by Georgia and Alabama. South Carolina beat them in Neyland. Had to survive an 0-8 UMass club. Granted, Jones in other places probably would be very comfortable with three bowl-win seasons out of four.
But this is Tennessee, a proud program where only championships matter (sounds like a basketball program we all love doesn’t it?). Jones is in trouble. A loss all but dooms him and his job. A loss by Stoops turns the heat up considerably.
So with that said, here’s what I think happens Saturday night. I look for a low-scoring game with both teams featuring their run game with feature backs Benny Snell from UK and John Kelly from UT.
I do expect the Vols to score their first offensive TD since forever. I think UK has the better receivers, so if they can get production from their balance of run/pass, UK is in business. Defensively, the Cats must contain the pocket a load better than last week’s debacle at Mississippi State with Bulldog QB Nick Fitzgerald.
UT freshman QB Jarrett Guarantano is mobile but not an accomplished thrower. Win the line of scrimmage and shut down the Vol run game, and make them one-dimensional and the Cats will be in pretty good shape.
I look for a tight game though, it is still Kentucky vs. Tennessee. I’m going… Kentucky 17 Tennessee 14.
SEC Predictions: (10-2 overall) Arkansas over Ole Miss Georgia over Florida Vanderbilt over South Carolina Missouri over UConn Texas A&M over Mississippi State Kentucky over Tennessee
Shane Shackleford is a retired coach and teacher residing in Speedwell, TN. You can reach him via email at email@example.com, Facebook at Shane Shackleford, or Twitter @ shack_daddy_1.