Tennessee football vs. Kentucky: 10 keys to the game for Vols and Wildcats

Nov 13, 2021; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Power T on the field before a game between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Georgia Bulldogs at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 13, 2021; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Power T on the field before a game between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Georgia Bulldogs at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports /
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Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) throws a pass during the first half of a game between the Tennessee Volunteers and Pittsburgh Panthers in Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh, Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022.Tennpitt0910 00481
Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) throws a pass during the first half of a game between the Tennessee Volunteers and Pittsburgh Panthers in Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh, Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022.Tennpitt0910 00481 /

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.

Next. Five Vols to watch for vs. Kentucky. dark

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.