Sidelines with John Clay

Kentucky football opens as the favorite over Tennessee for Saturday

Despite being trounced 45-7 at Mississippi State last Saturday, Kentucky has been installed as an early 5.5-point to six-point favorite over Tennessee for this Saturday’s game at Kroger Field.

Bovada in Las Vegas has UK as a six-point favorite over the Vols. MyBookie andf 5Dimes has the Cats as a 5.5-point pick over Tennessee.

Dating back to 1985, Kentucky is 1-31 in its last 32 meetings with Tennessee, the lone win coming in 2011 when wide receiver Matt Roark played quarterback and led Joker Phillips’ team to a 10-7 victory over the Volunteers at then Commonwealth Stadium.

With Mark Stoops as the Kentucky coach, UK was a 3-point underdog to Tennessee in 2013 and lost 27-14. The Cats were a 10-point underdog in 2014 and were swamped 50-16 in Knoxville. UK was a nine-point underdog in 2015 and lost 52-21. And the Cats were a 13-point underdog last year at Neyland Stadium and lost 49-36.

This Tennessee team has struggled mightily all season, however. Butch Jones’ club lost 45-7 at No. 1-ranked Alabama on Saturday to drop to 3-4 overall and 0-4 in the SEC. Tennessee was outgained 604-108. Tennessee’s offense has not scored a touchdown in its last three games, including a 41-0 loss to Georgia, 15-9 loss to South Carolina. Linebacker Daniel Bituli returned an interception 97 yards for a touchdown at Alabama.

Knoxville News-Sentinel sports columnist John Adams wrote Sunday that the Alabama game proved that Jones needs to be fired as the UT coach. “No matter how the Vols finish the season, coach Butch Jones is about to go 0-for-5 when it comes to SEC East championships. And he’s 0-for-5 when the division has never been worse.

“Moreover, he’s 2-8 in its last 10 SEC games and has lost ground to his three biggest rivals this season. Florida beat the Vols on a last-second pass play; Georgia pounded them 41-0; and Alabama not only beat them but surpassed a point spread that had grown to 37 by kickoff.”

Jones, who came to Knoxville after going 27-13 at Central Michigan and 23-14 at Cincinnati, is 33-25 overall and 14-22 in the SEC at Tennessee. Last year, UT was 9-4 overall and 4-4 in the SEC.

According to college football stats, Tennessee is 126th out of 130 FBS teams in total offense and 117th in scoring offense under first-year offensive coordinator Larry Scott.

Meanwhile, Kentucky’s 2017 offense has failed to match its 2016 production. The Cats are 113th nationally in total offense. Coordinator Eddie Gran’s unit is averaging 336.7 yards of total offense per game compared to 420.2 last season.

Stoops is 24-32 overall and 10-26 as the Kentucky coach. He is a combined 0-13 against Florida, Tennessee and Georgia. UK plays at Georgia on Nov. 18.

My Herald-Leader colleague and fellow sports columnist Mark Story joined me for Monday’s podcast to discuss UK’s meltdown against Mississippi State and a look ahead to Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. kickoff against the Big Orange.

Tennessee football 2017

Date

Opponent

UT

Opp

Dec

Rec

SEC

9/4

vsGeorgia Tech

42

41

W (OT)

1-0

9/9

Indiana State

42

7

W

2-0

9/16

@Florida

20

26

L

2-1

0-1

9/23

Umass

17

13

W

3-1

9/30

Georgia

0

41

L

3-2

0-2

10/14

South Carolina

9

15

L

3-3

0-3

10/21

@Alabama

7

45

L

3-4

0-4

10/28

@Kentucky

11/4

Southern Miss

11/11

@Missouri

11/18

LSU

11/25

Vanderbilt

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