GAMEDAY: UK-Tennessee Preview

KNOXVILLE, Tenn - Before Tennessee can focus on winning a Southeastern Conference championship, it first will try for a season sweep of its East division rivals.

The 15th-ranked Volunteers close out SEC regular-season play by hosting struggling Kentucky at Neyland Stadium.

Tennessee (8-2, 6-1 SEC) has already clinched a spot in next week's SEC title game in Atlanta against unbeaten Auburn by winning the East division crown. The Volunteers will be attempting to avenge a 34-10 loss to the Tigers in Knoxville on October 10 and win their first SEC title since 1998.

Before the Volunteers can think about revenge, they have to take on an opponent they have dominated. Tennessee, which is 4-0 against East division foes, has won 19 straight against Kentucky with 14 double-digit victories in that span.

Despite the lopsided nature of this rivalry, Tennessee coach Philip Fulmer is taking steps to make sure his team is ready for the 100th meeting between the teams.

"It's always a tough battle," Fulmer said. "Any time you deal with border state rivalries, it's that way. The roots of this series go very, very deep. I did the very best I could to make sure they understood the intensity and the passion of this football game."

Tennessee has the recent experience of playing a lightly regarded rival after last week's 38-33 victory at Vanderbilt. Cedric Houston scored three first-half rushing touchdowns and Gerald Riggs Jr. added 149 yards rushing as the Volunteers' ground game finished with 236 yards.

Third-string quarterback Rick Clausen made his first start of the season and was 19-of-30 for 189 yards and two touchdowns. Clausen got the start because of injuries the previous two weeks to freshmen co-starters Brent Schaeffer and Erik Ainge.

"I thought Rick did really well for his first start," Fulmer said. "There are always some plays in a game you'd like to have back. To not have any more game experience than he has had and the way he handled that football game was extremely impressive."

Houston, who will be one of 15 seniors making their last home appearance, moved into sixth place on the Volunteers' all-time rushing list by gaining 97 yards last week. He is one of only 11 Tennessee players to rush for more than 2,000 yards.

Kentucky (2-8, 1-6) enters the game under difficult circumstances after Monday's resignation of offensive coordinator Ron Hudson. The Wildcats rank 114th out of 117 Division I-A teams in total offense and have scored more than 17 points only once.

The resignation means that Kentucky's coaching staff will re-shuffle its duties and try to jump-start the offense.

"I will be more involved in the offense in this game," Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said. "I will be directly linked with (wide receivers coach) Joker Phillips, who will move from the field to the press box. He will do a lot of the calls in the passing game, and then Paul Dunn, our line coach, will do a lot of the play calling on the running game. I will intersperse my calls. It will be a trifecta and hopefully one that will work."

Kentucky had a week off since earning its first SEC win with a 14-13 victory over Vanderbilt on November 13. Shane Boyd's 25-yard touchdown pass to Glenn Holt with 1:39 remaining was the difference as the Wildcats snapped a seven-game losing streak.

The Wildcats are 0-4 on the road this season and have scored a total of 20 points in those games.


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