Kentucky vs. Tennessee: Keys to Saturday's game

November 29, 2013 

Quick facts about Saturday's University of Kentucky football game against Tennessee:

THE GAME

Tennessee (4-7, 1-6 SEC) at Kentucky (2-9, 0-7 SEC)

When: 7 p.m.

Where: Commonwealth Stadium

TV: ESPNU

Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1, XM Channel 199, Sirius Channel 119

Series: Tennessee leads 75-24-9

Last meeting: Tennessee won 37-17 on Nov. 24, 2012, in Neyland Stadium.

Line: Tennessee is favored by four points.

THE KEYS

Rebuild belief

After playing hard and at least staying in all (non-Alabama) games in Mark Stoops' first season, Kentucky appeared to let go of the rope in a demoralizing 59-17 pasting at Georgia. Statistically, there's not much separation between Tennessee and UK, but will the Cats' psyche rebound enough from the collapse in Athens to put up a vigorous fight?

Pressure a young QB

The strength of the Tennessee offense is a veteran offensive line and the running of Rajion Neal. Since starting quarterback Justin Worley injured his right thumb in the Volunteers' loss at Alabama, true freshman Joshua Dobbs has been the Vols' QB. So far, he's thrown zero touchdowns and five interceptions. UT has not passed for more than 128 yards in either of its last two games. Defensively, the Cats need to make the UT passing attack beat them.

The kitchen sink

Kentucky may as well throw it at Tennessee. Beaten up and beaten down, the UK offense has failed to gain 300 total yards in either of its last two games. With Kentucky at 2-9 and with leading rusher Raymond Sanders and key receiver Demarco Robinson suspended, there's no reason not to try every trick in the playbook on the Vols. Historically, Tennessee defenses have proven surprisingly vulnerable to a wide receiver playing quarterback.

THE MOOD

Is one of relief that the season is ending. After the euphoria that followed the hiring of Mark Stoops and the coach's early recruiting successes, the new UK head man has endured a difficult first season. With one chance left in 2013 for Stoops to produce a belief-instilling victory, the UK coach is fortunate in this sense: Even with Tennessee mired in mediocrity, there are few foes Kentucky football fans would more relish beating.

MARK STORY

Mark Story: (859) 231-3230. Email: mstory@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @markcstory. Blog: markstory.bloginky.com.

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