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Tennessee vs. Kentucky prediction, pick against the spread and odds from college football expert Matt Hayes. How should you bet this one? Find out here

Tennessee vs. Kentucky Prediction, Pick Against the Spread, and Latest Odds

Spread: Kentucky -1.5

Total: 58.5

Game time: Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET

Where to Watch: ESPN2

Tennessee vs. Kentucky odds

Tennessee vs. Kentucky - Out of the tunnel

A potentially rare season is teetering at Kentucky after back-to-back losses to Georgia and Mississippi State.

Kentucky can still get to 10 wins for the second time in four seasons under coach Mark Stoops, but there’s work to be done. It begins Saturday against Tennessee, a team that has dominated the series and won 26 straight from 1985-2010.

But these Wildcats are different. This UK program under Stoops is trying to beat Tennessee for the third time in five years, something that hasn’t happened since the late 1950s. While those numbers sound intriguing, the only that matter are the decreased numbers from the UK offense.

Kentucky combined to score 30 points against Georgia and Mississippi State, and averaged just 229 yards of offense in those games. But the Tennessee defense could be the elixir UK needs.

The Vols are giving up 30 points per game against FBS teams, and the defense is worse in SEC games (33 ppg.). They don’t play the run well, and they tackle poorly and take bad angles.

Basically, they’re an offensive coordinator’s dream – and a chance to get well quick for the Wildcats.

When Tennessee has the ball

While the Vols struggle defensively, they’ve still taken all four losses deep into the second half because they can score points.

First-year coach Josh Heupel’s fastball offense has breathed life into the stale program, and made a team devoid of elite talent competitive on the field. Heupel promised when he took the job that he didn’t know who would play quarterback, but he knew they’d score points by the bunch.

He and QB Hendon Hooker have delivered. The Virignia Tech transfer didn’t win the job initially, but got it for good in Week 3 and has been transforming the offense since.

He throws with accuracy and he’s tough, and his game management has been nearly flawless. The only problem: Tennessee’s banged up offensive line has had problems protecting him.

In fact, the bye week last weekend came at a perfect time; Hooker (21 total TDs) may not have been able to play (lower leg injury). He’s the team’s second leading rusher, and his fierce and fearless play is infectious.

When the Vols run well with TBs Tiyon Evans (516 yards, 6 TD) and Jabari Small (332 yards, 3 TD), they’re nearly impossible to stop. They scored 24 points on Alabama two weeks ago, and but for a handful of mistakes, would’ve had more.

Kentucky struggled last week vs. Mississippi State’s spread tempo offense, both in coverage and pass rush. The Wildcats should get better pressure against Tennessee’s patchwork offensive line.

When Kentucky has the ball

First-year offensive coordinator Liam Coen came from the NFL, brought those concepts to the Kentucky offense and changed the way they thought about throwing and running the ball.

But for the last two weeks, the offense has looked a lot like previous years, when it was a struggle to score points and develop an efficient passing game. The Wildcats have made huge strides in the run game under Coen, but combined for just 117 yards rushing against Georgia and Mississippi State.

The passing game wasn’t much better (a combined 342 yards in both losses), and QB Will Levis is beginning to look like the player who couldn’t win the starting job at Penn State – so he transferred to Kentucky.

But the Wildcats are back home after back-to-back road losses, and playing in Commonwealth Stadium will allow UK to run a cleaner, more efficient offense. The checks and reads that couldn’t be made and switched on the road, will be easier at home.

So will the defense Kentucky faces. The Vols don’t have the athletes in the front seven like Georgia and Mississippi State, and RBs Chris Rodriguez (809 yards, 5 TD) and Kavosiey Smoke (296 yards, 1 TD) should have more room to maneuver. And Levis, who threw three interceptions against Mississippi State, should see clearer passing lanes and receivers gaining separation against an overmatched Tennessee defense.

Tennessee vs. Kentucky - The bottom line

Tennessee sees reeling Kentucky and thinks it might steal a win, and potentially get to seven wins in Heupel’s first season – an amazing accomplishment considering Heupel lost numerous critical starters from last year’s team to the transfer portal, and has more than 30 players on the roster this season that didn’t play for Tennessee in 2020.

A big season is still in play for Kentucky, which if it wins out and wins a bowl game (it will be favored in every remaining regular-season game), it can win 11 games for only the second time in school history.

Tennessee vs. Kentucky Pick


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