Kentucky at Tennessee: Keys to Saturday's game

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistNovember 23, 2012 

Mark Story looks at the keys to Saturday's Kentucky football season finale at Tennessee:

THE GAME

Kentucky (2-9, 0-7 SEC) at Tennessee (4-7, 0-7 SEC)

When: 12:21 p.m.

Where: Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, Tenn.

TV: WKYT-27 (SEC Network)

Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1, Sirius Channel 132, XM Channel 199

Series: Tennessee leads 74-24-9

Last meeting: Kentucky won 10-7 on Nov. 26, 2011, in Commonwealth Stadium.

Line: Tennessee is favored by 13 points.

THE KEYS

1. Who has the most 'want to?'

Welcome to the Turmoil Bowl. Kentucky's head coach, Joker Phillips, has been fired and will be coaching the Wildcats for the final time Saturday. Tennessee's head coach, Derek Dooley, has been fired and chose not to coach the Volunteers for a final time Saturday. Instead, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney will serve as interim head man for the Orange. Amidst the ample upheaval, which team shows up ready to play?

2. UK defense

Tennessee has a bad defense (14th in the SEC in both yards and points allowed). Kentucky has a bad offense (14th in the SEC in both yards gained and points scored). Kentucky has a bad defense (12th in the SEC in points allowed, 10th in yards allowed). But Tennessee has a good offense (fourth in the SEC in points scored, second in yards gained). For Kentucky to have a chance, the Cats' defense has to slow down the Volunteers.

3. Road blues

In four prior games away from Commonwealth Stadium this season, Kentucky's "Kiddie Cats" have been outscored 152-31. With a chance to give UK its first back-to-back victories over Tennessee since 1976 and '77, has a Wildcats team with 12 true freshmen and five redshirt freshmen (not counting specialists) on its depth chart this week grown enough to produce a viable road effort?

THE MOOD

Is one of relief and anticipation. Whatever happens in Neyland Stadium, what has been a difficult 2012 Kentucky season will be at an end. Both the Kentucky and Tennessee fan bases are far more animated over who will be their schools' new coaches than Saturday's outcome. Still, if UK were to upset the Rocky Toppers for a second year in a row, it would make Phillips the first UK head man to beat Tennessee more than once since Fran Curci (who did it three times, 1976, '77 and '81). For a UK alumnus like Joker, that would be a nice parting gift.

Mark Story: (859) 231-3230Email: mstory@herald-leader.comTwitter: @markcstoryBlog: markstory.bloginky.com

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