Mark Story

How Kentucky and Tennessee match up — with a game prediction

How Kentucky (4-4, 2-4 SEC) and Tennessee (4-5, 2-3 SEC) match up at each position — with a game prediction:

Quarterbacks

Kentucky’s Lynn Bowden was named SEC co-Offensive Player of the Week after running for a career-high 204 yards and two touchdowns and setting up a third UK TD with a 44-yard pass in the Wildcats’ 29-7 win over Missouri two weeks ago. Kentucky’s use of a wide receiver at quarterback has a positive history vs. Tennessee (ladies and gentlemen, Matt Roark) — but will the Volunteers be the team that finally figures out Bowden and forces Mark Stoops to turn back to pocket-passing Sawyer Smith? Tennessee has started four different QBs this season, including wideout Jauan Jennings. Jeremy Pruitt declined to say who would take the first snap this week from among freshman Brian Maurer (two TD throws, five interceptions), redshirt freshman J.T. Shrout (one TD, zero picks) and redshirt junior Jarrett Guarantano (11 TDs, five picks).

Advantage: Kentucky

Jarrett Guarantano
Jarrett Guarantano (2) is one of four different quarterbacks to start for Tennessee in 2019. Daryl Sullivan Associated Press

Running backs

Kentucky junior A.J. Rose ran for 51 yards and a touchdown in the victory over Mizzou. The 6-1, 218-pound Cleveland product is 15th in the SEC in rushing with 508 yards. Tennessee junior Ty Chandler (569 yards rushing, three TDs) has been strong against Kentucky. Two seasons ago, in UK’s 29-26 win over UT, Chandler ran for 120 yards and two TDs. Last year, in the Volunteers’ 24-7 upset of the No. 12 Wildcats, the 5-foot-11, 201-pound Nashville product ran for 89 yards.

Advantage: Tennessee

cats.jpg
Tennessee running back Ty Chandler has run for 209 total yards in two prior career games vs. Kentucky. Charles Bertram cbertram@herald-leader.com

Wide receivers

Kentucky redshirt freshman Bryce Oliver made an acrobatic catch for a 44-yard gain that set up a TD in the win over Missouri. Lynn Bowden continues to be UK’s leading receiver (30 catches, 348 yards, one TD) in spite of spending the past three games at quarterback. Tennessee’s wide receivers are the Volunteers’ offensive strength. Fifth-year senior Jauan Jennings (47 catches, 722 yards, seven TDs) is having an All-SEC caliber season. Senior Marquez Callaway (18, 384, four) is a big-play threat, as UK experienced in 2018 when Callaway caught a 39-yard Hail Mary TD on the final play of the first half.

Advantage: Tennessee

Bryce Oliver catch vs Mizzou.JPG
Kentucky wide receiver Bryce Oliver (85) soared for an acrobatic 44-yard catch that set up a UK touchdown in the Wildcats’ 29-7 win over Missouri two weeks ago. Mark Mahan

Tight ends

Kentucky tight ends Justin Rigg (nine catches, 107 yards, one TD) and Keaton Upshaw (six, 70, one) have neither caught a pass in the past two games but have been part of UK’s improved run blocking. Tennessee’s Dominick Wood-Anderson has 13 catches for 191 yards. Austin Pope is “the run-blocking TE” and has caught four balls for 21 yards.

Advantage: Kentucky

Offensive line

After Kentucky left guard Logan Stenberg was called for a costly holding call at Georgia, the 6-foot-6, 321-pound senior from Madison, Ala., went penalty-free against Missouri. Since Lynn Bowden’s installation at QB three games ago, the UK line has turned up its play. Tennessee is starting true freshmen Wanya Morris and Darnell Wright, both five-star recruits, at left and right tackle, respectively, for an offensive front that is 10th in the SEC in sacks allowed.

Advantage: Kentucky

Defensive line

Kentucky senior Calvin Taylor was SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week after recording two sacks and forcing a fumble in the win over Missouri. The mammoth, 6-9, 311-pound product of Augusta, Ga., has five sacks on the season, one behind the SEC leaders. Tennessee end Aubrey Solomon, a transfer from Michigan, had a sack and forced a fumble in UT’s 30-7 pasting of UAB last week. He has 23 tackles, three tackles for loss and two sacks this season.

Advantage: Even

Calvin Taylor vs Mizzou.JPG
Kentucky defensive tackle Calvin Taylor (91) knocked the ball out of the hand of Missouri quarterback Kelly Bryant (7) during UK’s 29-7 win over the Tigers at Kroger Field two weeks ago. Mark Mahan

Linebackers

UK’s young linebackers were stellar in the win over Mizzou. Sophomores Chris Oats (eight tackles), DeAndre Square (seven tackles), Josh Paschal (three tackles, one sack), Jamin Davis (three tackles, one QB hurry) and Jordan Wright (two tackles, one sack, one forced fumble) were disruptive. Tennessee SLB Darrell Taylor had an astounding four sacks vs. UK last year. He leads the Vols with six sacks this season. MLB Daniel Bituli (43 tackles, three TFL after missing the first two games due to injury) had eight stops and 3.5 TFL vs. the Cats in 2018.

Advantage: Even

Darrell Taylor sacking UK QB Terry Wilson.JPG
Tennessee linebacker Darrell Taylor (19) forced a Terry Wilson fumble while recording one of the four quarterback sacks he made in UT’s 24-7 upset of No. 12 UK last season at Neyland Stadium. Charles Bertram cbertram@herald-leader.com

Defensive backs

Kentucky free safety Yusuf Corker and cornerback Brandin Echols have been the standouts on a unit that is third in the SEC against the pass (allowing 180.5 yards a game). Corker, a 6-foot, 195-pound sophomore, leads the Cats in tackles with 57 and has broken up three passes. Echols, a 5-11, 178-pound junior-college transfer, has a team-high seven pass breakups and has forced two fumbles. Tennessee CB Bryce Thompson intercepted three UAB passes in the first half last week. Safety Nigel Warrior also has three picks this season and is UT’s leading tackler with 50 stops.

Advantage: Tennessee

Brandin Echols DB.JPG
Kentucky cornerback Brandin Echols (26) has been one of the standouts in a UK secondary that has so far exceeded expectations in 2019. Alex Slitz aslitz@herald-leader.com

Special teams

Kentucky punter Max Duffy (48.8 yards a kick) was SEC Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance vs. Missouri. Duffy averaged 52.4 yards on five punts with no return yards, pinned Mizzou inside its 20-yard line three times and also set up a UK TD with a 26-yard run from punt formation. After Matt Ruffolo missed two PATs in driving rain against Missouri, deposed place-kicker Chance Poore got another chance and booted a 43-yard field goal. Tennessee place-kicker Brent Cimaglia has been the SEC’s best this season, making 18 of 20 field goals with a long of 53 yards. Paxton Brooks (42.9 yards average on 13 kicks) and Joe Doyle (41.5 yards on 21 kicks) have battled it out to be UT’s primary punter.

Advantage: Even

Prediction

Kentucky 24, Tennessee 23

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Mark Story has worked in the Lexington Herald-Leader sports department since Aug. 27, 1990, and has been a Herald-Leader sports columnist since 2001. I have covered every Kentucky-Louisville football game since 1994, every UK-U of L basketball game but three since 1996-97 and every Kentucky Derby since 1994.
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