How Kentucky and Tennessee match up for Saturday night's game in Commonwealth Stadium:
For all the criticism Patrick Towles has taken this year (some of it deserved, some not), the Kentucky junior is fourth in the SEC in passing yards (247.1 a game). This in spite of the fact Towles has been victimized by dropped passes and is playing behind an offensive line that is 11th in the SEC in sacks allowed (20). Highly touted UK redshirt freshman Drew Barker made his college debut in mop-up duty at Mississippi State and completed seven of nine passes though he threw an interception. Tennessee's Joshua Dobbs has been more effective with his feet (387 net rushing yards but 523 before sacks are factored in) than his arm (58.1 percent completions). Dobbs lit up UK last year for 297 yards and three TDs through the air, however.
Kentucky's Boom Williams ran 18 times for 95 yards at MSU and also caught two passes for 16 yards. The sophomore is seventh in the SEC in rushing at 91.8 yards a game. Tennessee's Jalen Hurd is one spot ahead of Williams in the SEC rushing rankings, averaging 94.9 yards a game. A big back at 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, Hurd was a five-star recruit in 2014. Last week in UT's narrow loss at Alabama, Hurd ran for 92 yards on 18 carries.
Kentucky's Dorian Baker (sixth, 38 catches) and Garrett Johnson (10th, 34 receptions) are both in the SEC top 10 in receptions. Each has also dropped potential TD catches in big moments, Baker against Florida and Auburn, Johnson at Mississippi State. Tennessee has been decimated both by injuries at wide-out, and the dismissal from the team of last year's leading receiver, Alton "Pig" Howard. Sophomore Josh Malone has emerged as UT's top receiver (19 receptions).
UK true freshman C.J. Conrad caught a career-high six passes at Mississippi State and now has 12 catches in the last four games. Tennessee sophomore Ethan Wolf has 16 receptions and two TDs this season.
After true freshman George Asafo-Adjei started UK's first three games, Kyle Meadows has started the last four at right tackle. Tennessee left guard Jashon Robertson is expected back after missing the Alabama game (ankle). If regular right tackle Brett Kendrick (knee, elbow) cannot go, freshman Chance Hall will make his second straight start.
Though Matt Elam made only one tackle at Mississippi State in his first career start, Mark Stoops praised Elam's play Monday at his weekly news conference. "Matt did a good job," Stoops said. "He accepted the challenge." Tennessee's Corey Vereen, who is from the same high school (West Orange in Winter Garden, Fla.) as UK wide-out Garrett Johnson, had two sacks at Alabama.
After making six tackles at Mississippi State, UK middle linebacker Josh Forrest is sixth in the SEC with 64 stops. Kentucky was without strong-side linebacker Jason Hatcher (ankle) at MSU, but Mark Stoops is hopeful the ex-Trinity star will return for UT. Tennessee's Jalen Reeves-Maybin is having a stellar season — the junior from Clarksville, Tenn., has 67 tackles (fifth in SEC), 10.5 tackles for loss (third) and four sacks (11th).
Rangy Kentucky true freshman CB Chris Westry snapped Dak Prescott's streak of 288 straight passes without an interception with an athletic pick in Starkville. The 6-4 Westry has a pass breakup in five of UK's seven games. Tennessee sophomore Emmanuel Moseley leads the Volunteers with seven passes defended. At 13th in the SEC in pass defense (allowing 248.3 passing yards a game), the UT secondary is one rung below UK (12th at 232.3 yards a game).
Kentucky's Austin MacGinnis (groin) reassumed both place-kicking and kickoff duty at Mississippi State. He has made 11 of 13 field goals. True freshman Sihiem King is seventh in the SEC in kickoff returns, averaging 22 yards. Tennessee's Evan Berry is a loaded weapon on kickoff returns, leading the SEC (38.7 yards a return), and he has taken two to the house. The Vols are strong on punt returns, with Cameron Sutton (14.9 yards, second in SEC), and punting, with Trevor Daniel (47.1 yards a kick). Place-kicker Aaron Medley (9-for-17 field goals, three long misses at Alabama) is struggling, however.
Tennessee 34, Kentucky 21