The Vols vs. Kentucky
Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, #2, steps into a throw at Kroger Field while facing the Kentucky Wildcats at Lexington, Kentucky on Saturday, November 9, 2019.

Ahead of Saturday’s matchup with Kentucky, the Daily Beacon talked with the Kentucky Kernel’s sports editor Braden Ramsey. Ramsey broke down the Wildcats and things to keep an eye on Saturday.

Question: What is both the injury and the COVID-19 situation right now at Kentucky?

Answer: “Injury wise, one of the biggest pieces in the running game, Kavosiey Smoke will be out again. He broke a rib against Ole Miss right before halftime and he’s going to be out a couple weeks. … In last week’s game, Josh Paschal had a slight knee sprain. Stoops said it’s not expected to keep him out but depending on how that goes, he could play, he could not. I think they expect him to play though. Covid wise, they haven’t really released any information specific to the football team. UK athletics has been pretty tight about that. They’ve kind of done everything in a broad spectrum way.”

Q: Lynn Bowden is gone but Kentucky’s offense looks pretty similar. How do you access what the offense wants to do and how effective they’ve been?

A: “They were really effective in the first half versus Auburn and in the Ole Miss game. That’s about half the season they were really good and half that they weren’t. Though everyone has been effective against Ole Miss so I don’t know how much you can glean from that. Obviously Kentucky is primarily a running team. They tried to establish the run last week but it wasn’t really working for them. They only averaged 2.6 yards per carry. Terry Wilson had 13 of those attempts which I think is a little much. I think they were relying on the Ole Miss game plan a little too much. They ran Terry a bunch against Ole Miss, and it was really working then but not really working against Mississippi State. … They’re trying to establish the run that’s always what Kentucky does. They’ve never been a really big passing team and Tennessee’s run defense has been solid so far. They will probably try to establish it against UT. If they have to resort to passing Terry showed flashes against Ole Miss but everyone has had success against Ole Miss so far. Last week they got a lot of pressure on him and sacked him quite a few times and he only went eight-of-20, so I guess it’s been a pretty classic Kentucky offense so far but they’ve shown some flashes.”

Q: Kentucky’s defense gave up 320 yards to Ole Miss then had six turnovers against Mississippi State, what are your thoughts on the secondary?

A: “I was kind of shocked at how they started the year. I know the numbers for Bo Nix week one didn’t look like they got shredded but they gave up a lot of big plays and openings. So I kind of anticipated what happened with Ole Miss and I assumed the Bulldogs would be right on track for that, but I think they finally got everything back on trap and went back to the basics and stopped focusing on drinking the water. Everyone was hyping them up before the year and I was part of that, everyone expected them to be very good and the first two games, especially against Ole Miss they didn’t look that. They kind of got back to basics and buckled down and played a lot better. … Overall, I think they're closer back to what they were supposed to be.”

Q: What’s a matchup you think Kentucky can exploit against Tennessee?

A: “From what I’ve heard and read is that if you can get some pressure on Guarantano he panics a little bit, I don’t know exactly how accurate that is. His numbers don’t look awful against Georgia, but if the front seven can get some pressure and the secondary play at the level they did last week, they might be able to force some more turnovers and I think with the way the offense looked last week, they might have to to win.”

Q: What’s the biggest key to the game for Kentucky?

A: “Defensively, I’m going to go with forcing a turnover or two because the offense hasn’t been effective against anyone that’s shown a semblance of defense. Ole Miss has really really not been good at all. They need to force some turnovers and give the offense short fields to work with.”

“Offensively, I’m not entirely sure they’ll be able to, but for anything to work offensively they have to establish the run. You saw against Ole Miss they hung 41 points and really got the ground game going. Terry was able to go 14-of-18 and he didn’t have a huge yardage total but he was completing passes and had some openings to work with. If they can’t establish the run at all, Tennessee’s defense is going to be able to do whatever it wants.”

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