The Kentucky Wildcats defense has gone from being a sieve early on to transitioning into a respectable unit as the season has progressed. The defense will have to be ready to go in Knoxville as the Cats travel to their own historical house of horrors, Neyland Stadium.
Kentucky’s last win there came in 1984 when they scored a 17-12 victory over the Vols.
In recent years Tennessee Josh Dobbs has been the source of Kentucky’s nightmares. In his three games against the Cats he’s passed for 729 yards and 7 touchdowns and rushed for another 151 yards and two more touchdowns.
Tennessee has outscored Kentucky 129-51 in those three games.
No doubt he will be the focal point of the UK defense. It’s easier said than done but they will attempt to stay in their rush lanes to contain him. If they crash too far down inside he can elude them go around the edge for big gains. If they get too wide he can scamper right up the middle for huge chunks of yardage. The old “mush rush” may be an option. Anything at all that may work has to be on the table.
Kentucky’s newfound bread and butter, the running game, is equipped to help the defense out as well. They should find success against a Tennessee defensive line that has lost a lot of depth due to the dismissal of Danny O’Brien and injuries to Shy Tuttle and Khalil McKenzie.
Linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin and safety Evan Berry have been lost for the season also.
If Kentucky gets the running game rolling Stephen Johnson has proven that he can throw a nice deep ball when offensive coordinator Eddie Gran decides its time to take a shot down the field.
There is a possibility that Tennessee gets some reinforcements at the running back and corner back position.
Butch Jones says Alvin Kamara and Cam Sutton will be game time decision for Kentucky.
— Jimmy Hyams (@JimmyHyams) November 9, 2016
One constant amid all of these injuries for the Vols has been defensive end Derek Barnett.
Of UK opponents 3 best defensive players: DE Jonathon Allen, LB Zach Cunningham, and DE Derek Barnett.
— Freddie Maggard (@FredMaggard) November 7, 2016
Alabama’s Jonathan Allen has received lots of publicity. Vanderbilt’s Zach Cunningham is becoming a household name. Barnett has quietly honed in on a record that many thought was unreachable — Reggie White’s all-time sack record.
He has 29 and only needs three to tie The Minister of Defense.
Kentucky could kill two birds with one stone with a win. They could become bowl eligible, which would make the Austin Peay home finale gravy, and they could put decades of futility in Neyland Stadium to rest. It’s going to be an interesting match up.