College Football Odds, Picks, Predictions for Tennessee vs. Kentucky: Why to Back the Wildcats

College Football Odds, Picks, Predictions for Tennessee vs. Kentucky: Why to Back the Wildcats article feature image

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Tennessee vs. Kentucky Odds

Saturday, Nov. 6
7 p.m. ET
Tennessee Odds
-115o / -105u
Kentucky Odds
-115o / -105u
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

SEC East rivals Tennessee and Kentucky meet in Lexington Saturday with both teams trying to rebound from back-to-back conference losses.

Tennessee went to Tuscaloosa last week and put up a good fight, eventually losing, 52-24. However, the Volunteers scored at the beginning of the fourth quarter to make it a one-score game before folding like a cheap suit and eventually blowing the cover.

Vols head coach Josh Heupel has his team currently sitting at 4-4, needing two wins to get to bowl eligibility. With a game against Georgia looming next weekend, this game is almost a must-win for the Volunteers.

Kentucky's perfect season was put to bed by Georgia on Oct. 16, and then, off of a bye, the Wildcats put up a dud of a second-half performance in Starkville last weekend, losing to Mississippi State's Air Raid offense, 31-17.

Kentucky is still ranked 18th in the country and with a win over Tennessee on Saturday, has a path to win out, finish 10-2 on the season and get to a prominent bowl game.

Tennessee Volunteers

Tennessee Offense

Heupel has completely changed the Tennessee offense, bringing his fast-paced style of play to Knoxville. Tennessee is third in terms of plays per minute and its rushing offense has been torching opposing defenses.

Lead back Tiyon Evans is having a fantastic season, running the ball for a whopping 6.4 yards per carry. He, along with dual-threat quarterback Hendon Hooker, have the Tennessee rushing attack ranking 25th in Rushing Success Rate and 28th in EPA/Rush. The offensive line also sits 17th in Offensive Line Yards.

The Vols are also rushing the ball 64.1% of the time, which is one of the highest rates in the nation for a non-triple option offense.

Tennessee is off to a fast start in Missouri. Tiyon Evans goes 92 yards to the house. Evans already has 2 rushing TDs for the Vols.


— CFB Blitz (@BlitzCfb) October 2, 2021

The problem for them in this matchup is Kentucky has a really good front seven that is only allowing 3.3 yards per carry this season.

Hooker has been pretty effective in the passing game, throwing for 9.5 yards per attempt, but Tennessee is only 51st in Passing Success Rate and 69th in EPA/Pass. There will be some regression coming, especially against a solid Kentucky secondary.

Tennessee Defense

Given the rate at which Kentucky runs the ball, Tennessee is going to have to stop the rushing attack in this game.

The Volunteers have been pretty average against the run this season, as they allow 3.9 yards per carry, rank 50th in Rushing Success Rate Allowed, 60th in Offensive Line Yards and 95th in Rushing Explosiveness Allowed.

Based on those numbers, they're likely going to have some difficulty trying to stop the Wildcats on the ground. The three times they've faced top-25 rushing offenses, they've allowed a combined 5.07 yards per carry.

Additionally, their starting nose tackle, Elijah Simmons, is questionable for the game on Saturday, which will not make things any easier against Kentucky's rushing attack.

The secondary is where most of the issues lie for Tennessee. It's 73rd in EPA/Pass allowed and graded as the 76th-best unit in terms of coverage, per PFF. However, they likely won't be tested too much as Kentucky's passing attack has been below average this season.

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Kentucky Wildcats

Kentucky Offense

The Wildcats run the ball 56.8% of the time and have run all over opposing defenses for 5.2 yards per carry this season.

The offensive line has been outstanding, ranking sixth in Offensive Line Yards and has graded out as the 21st-best unit in terms of run blocking, per PFF.

Junior running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. has been an absolute beast leading Kentucky's rushing attack this season, gaining 6.0 yards per play. However, he's been held to only 41 yards on 15 carries in his last two games against Georgia and Mississippi State.

On the plus side, those are both top-20 run defenses and Tennessee is nowhere close to that level. That means Rodriguez Jr. should be able to consistently run the ball on Saturday night.

Chris Rodriguez Jr. went beast mode 😳

— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) September 4, 2021

Will Levis has been struggling under center for Kentucky this season, as he's only averaging 7.4 yards per attempt. Additionally, he only has a 73.7 passing grade with eight big-time throws and seven turnover-worthy plays, per PFF.

He does have one of the best receivers in college football to throw to in Wan'Dale Robinson, who has a receiving grade over 91 on passes thrown over 10+ yards. He will be a problem for Tennessee's below-average secondary.

Kentucky Defense

Kentucky has been really solid in its front seven this season, ranking 49th in Rushing Success Rate Allowed, 32nd in Defensive Line Yards and 20th in EPA/Rush allowed.

Kentucky is also doing a fantastic job at limiting explosive plays in the run game, as it's seventh in the country in Rushing Explosiveness Allowed. The Wildcats will be well equipped to handle Tennessee's potent rushing attack on Saturday night.

The secondary is a different story. Kentucky has really struggled to defend the pass this season, as it's 124th in Passing Success Rate Allowed, 47th in coverage and 109th in EPA/Pass allowed.

However, given the fact that Tennessee runs the ball at such a high rate and given the regression that is coming for the Vols' passing attack, Kentucky could be able to slow them down.

Tennessee vs. Kentucky Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Tennessee and Kentucky match up statistically:

Tennessee Offense vs. Kentucky Defense
Rush Success2549
Line Yards1732
Pass Success51124
Pass Blocking**10978
Big Play2158
Finishing Drives2079
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Kentucky Offense vs. Tennessee Defense
Rush Success4750
Line Yards660
Pass Success8763
Pass Blocking**2484
Big Play6754
Finishing Drives786
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling11022
Middle 87987
SP+ Special Teams1342
Plays per Minute1101
Rush Rate62.6% (16)56.8% (50)

Data via College Football Data, FootballOutsiders, SP+, PFF and SportSource Analytics.

Tennessee vs. Kentucky Betting Pick

Tennessee has a couple of glaring weaknesses on defense that Kentucky should be able to exploit in this matchup.

Tennessee is not a fundamentally sound defense, as it ranks 110th in tackling. Additionally, it's 86th in Finishing Drives on defense, while Kentucky is seventh in that same category on offense.

I have the Wildcats projected at -3.87, so I think there's some value on their moneyline at +100 and would play it up to -120.

Pick: Kentucky ML +100

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