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Tennessee vs. Kentucky Betting Odds & Pick: Bet the Wildcats in SEC Showdown (Saturday, Oct. 17)

Tennessee vs. Kentucky Betting Odds & Pick: Bet the Wildcats in SEC Showdown (Saturday, Oct. 17) article feature image

Andy Lyons/Getty Images. Pictured: The Kentucky offensive line and Tennessee defensive line.

Tennessee vs. Kentucky Odds

Tennessee Odds -6.5 [BET NOW]
Kentucky Odds +6.5 [BET NOW]
Moneyline -235/+190 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 45.5 [BET NOW]
Time Saturday, 12 p.m. ET
TV SEC Network

Odds as of Saturday at 11:20 a.m. ET and via DraftKings. Get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.

For the 21st straight year, it does not feel like ’98 in Knoxville. The Volunteers were taken to the cleaners in the second half against Georgia and ended up getting blown out, 44-21. Tennessee will now have to turn the page quickly with its rival from up North coming into town.

Kentucky’s defense put up a stellar performance against Mike Leach’s air raid attack, shutting out the Mississippi State offense and forcing six turnovers. However, Kentucky gained only 157 yards in the game and seemed to struggle with the passing game. It’ll need to figure out those issues quickly because Tennessee’s weakness is its secondary.

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Tennessee Volunteers


Jarrett Guarantano has been solid under center in 2020, throwing for 7.4 yards per attempt and one pick. The senior has started 28 games in his Tennessee career and has the benefit of playing behind a stacked offensive line. Tennessee has four former five-star recruits on its O-line, which could turn out to be one of the best in the country.

Furthermore, that experience in the trenches has helped mitigate the loss of Guarantano’s top two targets from last season: Jauan Jennings and Marquez Callaway. In their stead, the Volunteer receiver who seems to have established a strong connection with Guarantano is senior Josh Palmer, who hauled in 14 passes for 227 yards and three touchdowns this year.

Tennessee really struggled to run the ball in 2019, ranking 90th in rushing success and 120th in rushing explosiveness. Those issues have carried over into 2020, as the Volunteers couldn’t gain a yard on the ground against Georgia last weekend.

The Vols do, however, bring back their running back tandem and entire offensive line, so there’s still optimism that things will improve. However, I don’t know how they will establish a running game against Kentucky’s stout run defense that is allowing only 3.0 yards per carry.


Tennessee’s defense came back down to Earth against Georgia, allowing a whopping 5.60 yards per play and 37 points. It was a far cry from the defense that went to another level in the second half of the 2019 season. In the Volunteers’ final six games of 2019, the defense allowed 4.4 yards per play and only 15.1 points per game. Their defense brings back a ton of talent but lost its top-three defenders from last year.

So far, the strength of the Tennessee defense has been against the run. The Volunteers ranked in the top half of college football in defensive rushing success and explosiveness last season, which has carried over into 2020. They now allow 3.3 yards per carry. However, their rivals possess a run-oriented attack that will be unlike anything they’ve seen this year.

Tennessee has been below average against the pass but has a ton of talent in its secondary. In fact, Tennessee had more interceptions last season than passing touchdowns allowed. The Vols will walk into a good matchup against this Wildcat offense, which seems to struggle with the concept of the forward pass.

Kentucky Wildcats


Kentucky’s wildcat-style offense worked last year with Lynn Bowden under center. But with the most dynamic player in college football now gone, Kentucky has struggled to find a passing game with Terry Wilson at the helm. The Wildcats rank 64th in the nation in Passing Success and Passing Explosiveness and will need to improve because Tennessee’s falls short in its back seven.

Kentucky’s rushing attack has made up for its lack of a passing game, mainly due to the fact it has a stout offensive line with three starters returning. The Wildcats rank in the top 15 in the nation in rushing success, line yards, and power success. It’ll be a fascinating matchup against Tennessee’s run defense, but I think the Wildcats will find a way to run the ball effectively like they did last season against Tennessee — a game in which they ran for 4.7 yards per carry.


Kentucky’s defense has been stellar this year against the run. The Wildcats are a top-10 team in Defensive Line Yards, Power Success, and Stuff Rate so far this year. With a bulk of their front seven returning in 2020, the Wildcats look like they could have one of the best run defenses in the SEC this year.

Kentucky has held up very well in the secondary and look much improved from 2019. The Wildcats are allowing only 6.6 yards per attempt and forced six picks against Mississippi State last Saturday. With all of their starters returning in the secondary, they should hold Tennessee’s passing attack in check.

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Betting Analysis & Pick

Tennessee may have had all of the hype entering the season, but that is now gone after it got destroyed by Georgia. The Volunteers have real issues with their ground game, which is forcing them to become one-dimensional and predictable. Mark Stoops should be able to devise a game plan to limit Tennessee’s passing attack.

Although Kentucky has struggled to throw the ball, it has shown us over the past 11 games that its running game is good enough to make up for it. I only have Tennessee projected at -3.02, so I think there’s a little value on Kentucky at +6. However, that’s the lowest number at which I would play the Wildcats.

Pick: Kentucky +6

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