Both the Wildcats (4-4) and the Vols (4-5) are two wins away from bowl eligibility making this a matchup with plenty on the line. Here are the three keys.
By Steve Wright
Stick with Lynn Bowden
Yes. Bowden is limited as a passer. His best passing performance was 7-of-11 for 78 yards and a score, also known as what a player like Tua Tagovailoa is able to put together in the first quarter of an Alabama game. What Bowden does well though – and very well at that – is run the ball in a way unlike any other quarterback at a Power 5 program.
He has rushed for 499 yards on 62 attempts. That is over eight yards per carry. In two of his games he has rushed for over 200 yards, while he kept Kentucky in the game for nearly three quarters against a vastly more talented Georgia team.
Mark Stoops is a good enough coach to know to stick with what works and right now, Bowden is working.
The defense needs to keep at it
The front seven defensively has been the building block that Kentucky has built off of this season. Calvin Taylor Jr. has been the kind of monster you would expect at 6-foot-9 and well over 300 pounds. He has five sacks, a pair of forced fumbles and sick TFLs on the season. He is a super athlete for a man of his size.
Ideally the Wildcats will also have Kash Daniel back at linebacker this weekend after missing a couple of games. Tennessee has not been great on offense and they have quarterback issues of their own. If the defense can make whoever plays QB make mistakes, then Kentucky has the firepower to win this contest.
Don’t throw near Bryce Thompson
Thompson had himself a day last Saturday against UAB. The talented Vols cornerback intercepted three passes, tying a Tennessee single game record achieved by a number of players with the last being Deon Grant in 1999. These were the first three picks of the season for the athletic Thompson, a stat slightly skewed by the face he was suspended for the Vols first three games of the year.
Kentucky has made their mini run this season on the back of a quarterback that doesn’t throw the ball all that much. Given that Thompson is in such fine form, that is probably not a bad thing.