The Tennessee Volunteers (2-1) suffered their first loss of the season on Saturday against Georgia despite leading 21-17 at the half. They next face a stingy Kentucky Wildcats (1-2) defense that throttled Mississippi State last time out. Here are the three keys to a Vol win.
By Steve Wright
Jarrett Guarantano must protect the ball
Guarantano was at fault for three turnovers – one pick and two fumbles lost – on Saturday against Georgia. He is now going up against a Kentucky defense that picked the ball off six times in their own game one weekend ago. Kentucky was able to put plenty of pressure on KJ Costello of Mississippi State on Saturday by rushing three defensive linemen and getting them through gaps in the line. Guarantano must do a better job of protecting the ball here and making sure that the turnovers don’t happen because of a forced throw or because he is trying to do too much.
Work out how to attack Kentucky
The Wildcats have been weird over the last two weeks. Against Ole Miss their rushing game worked – over 400 yards – but their defense may as well have not been at the game. Against the Bulldogs the defense forced those six interceptions, but the offense went for just 157 total yards and any offense without the mistakes would have made it interesting. It seems that there is going to be something off about the Kentucky team every week and it will be up to the Tennessee players and coaches to find that weekly weakness and exploit it as best possible.
Havoc plays early one defense
The Wildcats are going to try to beat the Vols by running the ball. The best way to stop a game plan predicated on running the ball is by getting said team behind the chains with big defensive plays on first and second down. On the season, the Vols have 19 tackles for a loss, nine sacks, three forced fumbles, two picks, and seven QB hurries. These havoc plays have been a staple of the Florida defense over the last few years and they are hyper-effective at slowing down an offense. If Tennessee can cause havoc on early downs then the Wildcats won’t recover often enough to move the ball with their offensive style.
Saturday‘s game kicks off at 11:00 AM CT (12:00 PM ET). Watch on the SEC Network.