Matchup: Kentucky

This week, Tennessee takes on Kentucky in Knoxville. This is our take on this Vols vs Wildcats matchup. Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge said his preseason goal was to complete 65 percent of his passes.

Offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe wasn't sure Ainge could do it. He'd seen Ainge struggle to hit 45.5 percent as a sophomore and had his doubts.

But 11 games into the season, Ainge is on pace to break the single-season completion percentage mark. He's hit almost 68 percent. The record is 64.6 percent by Heath Shuler in 1993. Ainge has two more games to break the mark – Kentucky on Saturday and a bowl game.

This season, Ainge has been awesome. Not only is his accuracy amazing, he's got 2,482 yards and 18 touchdowns despite missing virtually two games.

Ainge hit 55 percent of his passes as a freshman and was just above 50 percent for his two-year career.

``I wanted to throw for 65 percent,'' Ainge said this week. ``Anything over that is a bonus. … Coach Cutcliffe said he believed it could happen.''

Not so fast, my friend. Cutcliffe, like most UT fans, had doubts.

``We weren't doing it with consistency in practice, and that's all I could base it on at that time,'' Cutcliffe said.

Cutcliffe said at the end of August drills, he could see the light turn on for Ainge and the offense. Ainge was 11 for 18 for 291 yards and four touchdowns against California and his confidence soared.

Not once in a complete game – he played the first three series against LSU with a sprained ankle – has Ainge failed to complete at least 50 percent of his passes. He's hit at least 60 percent in eight of his nine games. He's completed over 66 percent six times and over 80 percent three times.

All this from a guy who completed 50 percent of his passes in just ONE game last year.

Cutcliffe said accuracy helped by mechanics and decision making have been the key for Ainge.

``What's made me realize he's growing as a quarterback is his decision making,'' Cutcliffe said. ``he's laying the ball off, not forcing the football, understanding down and distance, understanding coverage, finding places he can get completions. That's when a quarterback can play well.''

Here is a position by position breakdown for the UT-Kentucky game.

Game #: 1128
Site: Knoxville
Date: Nov. 25
Conference: SECE
Coach Match-up:
For the Vols - Fulmer and for the Wildcats - Brooks


Vols

Wildcats
OLCOMMENTSOL

Kentucky averages only 95.8 rushing yards per game and has allowed an SEC-worst 34 sacks. UT is averaging 111.4 rushing yards per game and has allowed 14 sacks. It's doubtful any Wildcat could start on UT's line.

QB'sCOMMENTSQB's

Andre Woodson has hit 62 percent of his passes for 2,934 yards and 27 touchdowns. He leads the SEC in total offense, passing yards and touchdown passes. Erik Ainge has hit 68 percent of his passes for 2,482 yards and 18 touchdowns despite missing almost two full games.

RB'sCOMMENTSRB's

Rafael Little is big time. He's accounted for more than 400 rushing and receiving yards in the past two games. He's also a skilled punt returner, averaging 25.9 yards per runback after averaging 16.9 last year. LaMarcus Coker is averaging 7.0 yards per carry, about double that of Montario Hardesty (3.7) and Arian Foster (3.3) Coker is a home-run threat.

WR'sCOMMENTSWR's

Kennan Burton (66 for 964 yards, SEC-best 12 touchdowns) and Dicky Lyons Jr. (45 for 712) are a dynamic duo. Robert Meachem (61 for 1,149, 10 TDs), Jayson Swain (40 for 589) and Bret Smith (37 for 434) are a terrific trio.


Vols

Wildcats
DLCOMMENTSDL

Kentucky is allowing 197.5 rushing yards per game and had just one healthy scholarship tackle for the LSU game. UT doesn't shut down the run like it used to (145.1 yards per game) but still has more talent than UK.

LB'sCOMMENTSLB's

Wesley Woodyard leads Kentucky in tackles (99). Braxton Kelley is second with 76. Marvin Mitchell (86 stops) leads the Vols in tackles. Ryan Karl has been solid. Rico McCoy (eight tackles against Vanderbilt) will start for Jerod Mayo (knee).

DB'sCOMMENTSDB's

Kentucky surrenders 271.3 passing yards per game and is last in the SEC in pass-defense efficiency. Jonathan Hefney and Jonathan Wade have combined for nine of UT's SEC-best 16 interceptions, although the Vols rank only eighth in the SEC in pass-defense efficiency. UT gives up 100 fewer passing yards per game than the Wildcats.

S. TeamsCOMMENTSS. Teams

Lones Seiber (9 of 15 field goals) of Central High School is UK's kicker. Tim Masthay averages 39.4 yards per punt. Little is a fabulous punt returner. James Wilhoit is the SEC's active career scoring leader. Britton Colquitt leads the SEC in punting. Jonathan Hefney averages 12.8 yards per punt return.


Vols

Wildcats
INTANGIBLES

Kentucky would like to snap a 21-game losing streak to Tennessee, the second longest in 1-A. UT wants to finish strong, keep alive goals for a 10-win season and beat former assistant Randy Sanders

PREDICTION

Tennessee 41, Kentucky 24.


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