1. Kentucky’s elite pass defense vs. Vols’ elite passing offense
Hendon Hooker’s running threat is huge to Tennessee football’s success, but Kentucky is one of the best at preventing quarterbacks from taking off. That’s a sacrifice they make for not registering too many sacks. As a result, Hooker will have to beat them from the pocket.
Welcome to the best matchup of the day, ladies and gentleman. UT has a dominant pass offense thanks to Hooker, great play-calling and an array of elite receivers. That number of receivers could increase Saturday if Cedric Tillman returns. The Vols are second in passing yards per game with 368.9 and first in yards per attempt by nearly half a yard at 11.4.
On the other side, though, Kentucky is No. 14 in passing yards allowed per game at 178.3 and No. 13 in passing yards allowed per attempt at 6.2. As a result, this is the matchup that everybody wants to see, and it’s another game that could really fuel Hooker’s Heisman campaign.
Part of this is Kentucky having six interceptions on the year while Tennessee football has only thrown one. Will the Vols throw another? How many big plays can they get against this secondary, arguably the best they have faced all year? If they can’t get any, then it’ll really come down to their pass rush, but this is the matchup that involves all elite players.