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Kentucky Wildcats vs. Tennessee Volunteers Preview and Predictions 10-17-2020

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Tennessee backup quarterback Harrison Bailey took all 49 snaps Sunday in a live scrimmage the day after the Volunteers absorbed their first loss of the season.

The Volunteers (2-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) were routed 44-21 at Georgia, getting outscored 27-0 in the second half. Tennessee fell from No. 14 to No. 18 in the national rankings following the defeat.

Quite naturally, the scrimmage alignment caused speculation that Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt was thinking about benching starter Jarrett Guarantano for the Vols' Saturday home game against Kentucky.

On Monday, Pruitt got around to quashing that bit of speculation.

"Jarrett is our quarterback," Pruitt said. "He gives us the best chance to have success. When you don't have a lot of success, the quarterback gets too much blame. When you have a lot of success, the quarterback probably gets too much credit.

"Offensively, our struggle Saturday was not because of one independent person. It was a team effort. We understand that. It starts with us as coaches putting our guys in a better position to have success."

Guarantano was actually pretty good in the first half at Georgia. He threw 36- and 27-yard touchdown passes in the second quarter to Josh Palmer, enabling the Vols to take a 21-17 lead to halftime.

After halftime, Guarantano was a turnover machine. He tossed an interception and lost two fumbles, all of which led to points. The second lost fumble was a strip-sack that was returned for a touchdown.

In fairness to Guarantano, he got little help. A veteran offensive line touted as the strength of the team was whipped most of the game. Tennessee rushed for minus-1 yard on 27 carries, enabling the Bulldogs to get after the quarterback.

The Vols will aim to create better balance against a Kentucky team that shook off tough losses to Auburn and Mississippi by thumping Mississippi State 24-2 last week. It marked the first time that a Mike Leach-coached offense failed to score at least a field goal.

The Wildcats (1-2, 1-2) intercepted six passes, overcoming a poor performance by their offense.

"Offensively, we've got to get some things corrected," Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. "We need the offense to respond much like the defense did last week. We need to put it all together."

The Wildcats won easily despite collecting just 157 total yards and 10 first downs. Quarterback Terry Wilson completed just 8 of 20 passes for 73 yards and a touchdown. Wilson also had 50 of the team's 84 rushing yards.

One Kentucky touchdown occurred as the result of a 2-yard field after a 76-yard interception return by Josh Paschal. The final touchdown came on an 8-yard interception return by Jordan Wright with less than seven minutes remaining in the game.

It was somewhat remarkable that the Wildcats prevailed since they only had the ball for 25:11, running 31 fewer plays than Mississippi State.

"It was aggravating," Stoops said. "It was not good enough for us."

This will be the 116th time the Southeastern Conference rivals have met. Tennessee leads the series 81-25-9, including a 17-13 victory in Lexington last year. Only Auburn and Georgia have played more often in SEC history with 125 matchups.

--Field Level Media

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Key Players to Watch

Stadium

Neyland Stadium
Knoxville, Tennessee, USA.
Capacity: 102,455

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Last Injuries

Tennessee Volunteers

  • Alontae Taylor

    Hamstring
    Ques Sat | questionable

    Taylor sat out the last game due to a hamstring injury, leaving his status unknown for Saturday's matchup against Alabama.

  • Jahmir Johnson

    Hamstring
    Ques Sat | questionable

    Johnson has missed the last three games due to a hamstring ailment. It remains to be seen if he will suit up Saturday against Alabama.

  • Jeremy Banks

    Leg
    Ques Sat | questionable

    Banks was forced from the previous game with a right leg injury, and it is unknown if he will play against Alabama on Saturday.

  • Wanya Morris

    Undisclosed
    Ques Sat | questionable

    Morris departed the previous game with an undefined injury. It is unclear if it will impact his status for Saturday's contest against Alabama.

  • Dee Beckwith

    Ankle
    Ques Sat | questionable

    Beckwith has sat out the last four games due to an ankle injury, and it has yet to be established if he will line up versus Alabama on Saturday.

  • J.J. Peterson

    Personal
    Out indefinitely | out

    Peterson will miss an extended period due to a personal matter.

  • Brian Maurer

    Hamstring
    Ques Sat | questionable

    Maurer has missed the last three games with a hamstring issue, and it has yet to be determined if he will take the field against Alabama on Saturday.

  • Elijah Simmons

    Ankle
    Ques Sat | questionable

    Simmons is bothered by an ankle injury, and it has yet to be established if he will face Georgia on Saturday.

Kentucky Wildcats

  • Quinton Bohanna

    Leg
    Ques Sat | questionable

    Bohanna exited the previous game with a left leg injury, and his status for Saturday's battle against Missouri is in question.

  • Bryce Oliver

    Undisclosed
    Prob Sat | probable

    Oliver has sat out the previous three games due to an unspecified ailment, but it is expected that he will play Saturday versus Tennessee.

  • Brenden Bates

    Undisclosed
    Out indefinitely | out

    Bates will miss an undetermined length of time due to an unspecified injury.

  • Joshua Paschal

    Knee
    Ques Sat | questionable

    Paschal is nursing a knee sprain, and his availability against Tennessee on Saturday is hazy.

  • Kavosiey Smoke

    Ribs
    Out indefinitely | out

    Smoke will miss an undetermined length of time with a broken rib.