KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) — What used to be the old Battle for the Beer Barrel, this old border rivalry is as important as ever. The Vols have played and beaten Kentucky more than any other team having won 32 of the last 34 meetings. Another win Saturday would be huge for a Tennessee program looking to continue its ascent back to respectability.
The Vols must win two of their final three games in order to become bowl eligible, but a win in Lexington would earn the Big Orange a shot at a winning season. So how do they get the job done, well here are my keys to a Tennessee win at Kroger Field:
1. PLAY CONFIDENT: This young Kentucky squad has played well at home, 4-1 this season with their only loss to Florida. But as I mentioned, the Vols have owned the Wildcats and must approach the game like the team that’s had the upper hand in the series. That confidence will serve them well in what will be a hostile environment. Confidence should come a little easier for a Tennessee team that’s improved since the start of the season having won three of it’s last four games.
2. QUARTERBACK PLAY: Regardless of which QB is under center, the Vols will need to get solid play from their signal caller and limit their mistakes. Jarrett Guarantano had a fumble and an interception in last week’s game. Helping Tennessee’s cause, the fact that the Wildcats only have 5 interceptions this season.
3. BOG DOWN BOWDEN: Converted wide receiver Lynn Bowden Jr. has given Kentucky a spark at the quarterback position. Running from the Wildcat formation, Bowden has been a load, currently leading the league in all-purpose yards. The Vol defense will need to identify the play and fly to the ball as best it can.
4. RUN, RUN, RUN: Tennessee’s ability to run the football will not only keep an aggressive and very good Wildcat defense (tied for 13th nationally in scoring defense in October) honest, but at the same time, help keep UT’s quarterbacks healthy. Coach Pruitt says all three QB’s are a go, but uncertainty about their physical well being still looms large with one (Brian Maurer) coming off concussions and the other (Jarrett Guarantano) still healing what was a broken non-throwing hand.
5. KICKING GAME: Should Saturday’s game go down to the wire, the Vols will feel confident calling upon Brent Cimaglia. The Lou Groza Award semifinalist is tops in the SEC and third in the nation in field goals made this season having hit on 18 of 20. Field position will be key and the Cats have someone who can affect that in Max Duffy, the schools all time leading punter at 46 yards per kick. It will bear watching both of these talented juniors.
The Vols can get to .500, a (5-5) record with a win Saturday night in what will be a cold environment, both in the stands and in the atmosphere. Kickoff is 7:30 on the SEC Network.
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