Kentucky vs Tennessee Odds, Picks & Predictions: Bet the Wildcats in High-Scoring Affair
Dylan Buell/Getty Images. Pictured: Kentucky’s Izayah Cummings.
Kentucky vs Tennessee Odds
On the weekend before the first College Football Playoff rankings are announced, Tennessee must defend Rocky Top once again as division rival Kentucky makes a visit to Neyland Stadium.
The Volunteers are experiencing a magical season with plenty of similarities to the 1998 championship run. An undefeated record includes a cover on the road at LSU and at home against Alabama. Tennessee owns a strength of schedule in the top five, indicating there's no fluke in this championship run.
The Wildcats, meanwhile, have been rolling with the punches since the season began.
Head coach Mark Stoops had several players suspended to start the season, while an injury at quarterback resulted in a loss to South Carolina. There have been positives for Kentucky that will lead to a quality bowl, including victories over Florida and Mississippi State.
The Vols represent the biggest hurdle to date on the Wildcats' schedule, as Kentucky has just a single win in its last 13 trips to Neyland.
Tennessee's offense is the top scoring bunch in the nation, averaging 50.1 points per game. Only Ohio State has scored more touchdowns, as the Volunteers are a top-10 unit in Offensive Finishing Drives and Success Rate.
Quarterback Hendon Hooker has thrown just a single interception, posting the seventh-lowest turnover-worthy rate of any FBS passer with 200 attempts.
Despite the absence of wide receiver Cedric Tillman, there have been plenty of other stars to emerge from the offense.
Jalin Hyatt is one of the most explosive wide receivers in college football, averaging 3.7 yards per route run with 90% of snaps coming from the slot. The junior has the third-highest explosiveness numbers of all slot wide receivers with at least 35 targets.
Bru McCoy and Ramel Keyton have been productive targets at wideout while Tillman is still considered day-to-day.
Defensive coordinator Tim Banks is looking to get the defense on par with the offense, but a leaky secondary has allowed opponents to compete.
Tennessee ranks outside the top 100 in Havoc and coverage, as Alabama and Florida each put up over 400 yards of passing. The Volunteers have an even split playing man and zone coverage and have struggled to stop the chains from moving no matter which personnel usage is selected.
Thankfully for Banks, the rush stop unit has overperformed. Tennessee sits top-15 in both Defensive Rushing Success Rate and Stuff Rate, forcing opponents into passing downs quicker than most defenses in college football.
A narrow loss to Ole Miss may have provided the practice session Kentucky needed to prepare for Tennessee's uptempo offense.
Stoops acknowledged the Rebels don't have quite the same dynamic from a play-calling standpoint, but handling the quick nature of the opponent was a part of drills in fall camp.
Ole Miss couldn't find success on offense, as 20% of drives ended in a three-and-out punt. The Wildcats' zone defense that stymied Florida's Anthony Richardson also limited Jaxson Dart to a low 31% Passing Success Rate.
Kentucky's defense once again flexed its muscles against Mississippi State's Air Raid, allowing a single touchdown and just four plays from scrimmage in the red zone.
@CROD_JR is a MAN 💪🏻💪🏻💪🏻💪🏻#KentuckyFootball#KentuckyWildcats#BBN#ChrisRodriguezJr#bigbluenation#GoBigBlue#CATSCATSCATS#UKFootball#Lexington#krogerfield#WildcatFootball#willlevispic.twitter.com/gPKNQSKcwD
— Wiley Collectibles (@wileycollects) October 16, 2022
Running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. was suspended for the first month of play but has attacked the October schedule in fifth gear. The senior has logged nearly 200 yards on the ground behind an improving offensive line.
Will Levis returned under center after a foot injury kept the quarterback out of action against South Carolina.
The missing element from Levis this season is the ability to evade pressure, posting only 32 yards on designed runs and just 11 scramble yards against Power Five competition.
Kentucky vs Tennessee Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Kentucky and Tennessee match up statistically:
Kentucky Offense vs. Tennessee Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)|
Tennessee Offense vs. Kentucky Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)|
Pace of Play / Other
|SP+ Special Teams||27||47|
|Seconds per Play||32.2 (131)||21.1 (6)|
|Rush Rate||57.0% (44)||57.6% (37)|
Data via CollegeFootballData.com (CFBD), FootballOutsiders, SP+, Pro Football Focus and SportSource Analytics.
Kentucky vs Tennessee Betting Pick
Oddsmakers are not in the habit of giving away money when the hottest team in the country has a game lined. Kentucky sat above two touchdowns on the spread of the look-ahead line last week. An opener of 14 points was immediately chopped down into the dead zone of Tennessee -12.
Stoops is saddled with the task of slowing down the best offense in the country while leaning on the arm of Levis to beat the Volunteers' secondary.
There are a few hidden advantages for Kentucky in this game, starting with the penalties. Kentucky ranks sixth in the nation in flags per game, a stark contrast to Tennessee's rank of 129th.
Third-down defense is also a plus in favor of the Wildcats, who own a rank in the top 20.
One long-lasting trait of any Kentucky defense in any season is the ability to stop the explosive play. The Wildcats are fantastic when opponents find themselves in passing downs, ranking top-25 in Defensive Success Rate and defending explosiveness.
Action Network projects Tennessee as a 9-point favorite, giving plenty of value to the Kentucky number. There's no haste in taking the Wildcats until a 13 or better pops in the market.
This was a highly competitive game last year, as Stoops elected to score as often as possible in lieu of stopping Tennessee's uptempo offense. Stoops will look to implement the same offensive game plan as last season after Kentucky entered the fourth quarter trailing by only three points.
Look for tempo to be present on both sides of the ball as Kentucky tests the waters against an unproven Tennessee secondary.