Tennessee-Kentucky: Head-to-head statistical rankings

Below is a look at Tennessee’s national stat rankings side-by-side with the counterpart rankings for the Kentucky Wildcats. Bottom line for the Vols this week: Run the ball, stop the run, and all eyes on Lynn Bowden.

Details below.

When the Vols have the ball

Where’s the opportunity?

We might be okay on third downs? We might be able to run the ball? With Tennessee’s offense struggling, there’s not much to work with here. Fortunately, Kentucky’s not especially good defending the run or at intercepting passes, so while those things aren’t necessarily strengths for the Vols, at least it’s not weakness against strength in those categories. And the Vols offense isn’t bad on third downs and will be going against a Wildcats defense that is. Kind of.

Where’s the danger?

Where else? The Red Zone, and not just because the Vols are in the Bottom 30 there. Kentucky is nearly in the Top 30 at keeping folks knocking on the door out of the house. Also, they don’t allow many passing yards (and we don’t get many) and they’re tough on first downs (and we’re not.) Boo.

Gameplan for the Vols on offense

Hope that you can run the ball and then convert on third down.

Vols on defense

Where’s the opportunity?

Well, this is more like it, as there’s a whole lotta blood in Kentucky’s offensive stat rankings. Although the Vols defense isn’t yet elite at anything other than intercepting passes, it does appear to have advantages nearly across the board, and where it doesn’t, it’s nearly a push.

Tennessee should make things very difficult for a Kentucky offense really not accomplishing much through the air and should be able to turn all guns on the ground game.

Where’s the danger?

The run game. Kentucky’s putting up over 200 yards per game on the ground, ranking 32nd nationally and 5th in the SEC. Wide receiver/quarterback Lynn Bowden is leading the way with nearly 75 rushing yards per game, and he not only leads the conference in all-purpose yards, he’s 5th in the nation.

And he’s not alone. True running backs Asim Rose and Kavosiey Smoke are adding 64 and 43 yards per game to the total. If the Wildcats are going to have success, it’s likely going to come from some combination of those three.

The other danger is game-planning for a one-dimensional attack led by Bowden at QB only to have quarterback Sawyer Smith return from injury instead. Having to contend with Bowden out at receiver would double the dimension, stretch the field, and make more room for Rose and Smoke to operate in the running game. I think the Vols would still be alright against that offense, but that could prove to be more difficult.

Gameplan for the Vols on defense

If it’s Bowden at quarterback, turn all the cannons on him and whichever running back is in the game. If it’s Smith, fight on both fronts but still focus primarily on stopping the run first.

Special teams

Beware a field position battle with these guys, as punter Max Duffy is 2nd in the nation in net punting with an average of 48.8 yards. The team is first in the nation in net punting.

Also, when kicking off, Paxton Brooks better get it over Bowden’s head and into the end zone for a touchback. If Bowden’s receiving punts, the best play would probably be to kick it as deep as possible but definitely out of bounds.

Turnovers and penalties

Turnovers. They’re important.

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