Devil's Advocate

Welcome to Devil's Advocate — Inside Tennessee's version of punch/counter punch — where each week analysts Randy Moore and Jeffery Stewart choose their sideline and make their cases for our readers' regular amusement and occasional edification.



Tennessee lost Game 1 to a passing team (Cal) on the road.

Tennessee lost Game 3 to a passing team (Florida) on the road.

Tennessee lost Game 7 to a passing team (Alabama) on the road.

Tennessee plays Game 12 against a passing team (Kentucky) on the road.

Need I say more?

OK, here are several more reasons that the smart money should be on the Big Blue instead of the Big Orange this weekend at Commonwealth Stadium.

THE MATCHUP: The key to this game will be the success of Kentucky's passing offense vs. Tennessee's pass defense. The Wildcats rank No. 1 among the 12 Southeastern Conference teams in passing, while the Vols rank 11th in pass defense. When the opponent's greatest strength corresponds to your greatest weakness ... well, that's not a good thing.

THE WOODSON FACTOR: UK quarterback Andre Woodson leads the SEC in passing (265.5 yards per game), but he has struggled when opponents pressure him. Georgia sacked him five times and limited him to 13 points last weekend. Tennessee ranks dead last among the 12 SEC teams in sacks, however, so the Vols appear incapable of bringing the kind of heat Georgia did.

THE LAW OF AVERAGES: Tennessee has won the last 22 meetings but three of the past six were decided by six points or less. Odds are, UK is going to turn the tide one of these days ... and this is its best chance in 23 years.

THE MOTIVATION: A Tennessee win clinches the SEC East title, so this is a big game for the Vols. However, this is a pride game for the Wildcats. In addition to ending a 22-year losing streak in the series, a win gives the Cats their first eight-win regular season since 1982 and a great shot at a New Year's Day bowl.

THE SITE: Commonwealth Stadium is no longer a home away from home for visiting teams. Kentucky was 6-1 at Lexington in 2006 and won its first five games at Lexington in 2007, including a stunning upset of top-ranked LSU. The Cats have lost two home games in a row, however, so reclaiming their home turf is sure to be a major focus.

THE HOOPS FACTOR: Normally, Big Blue fans are thinking about basketball in November. After the Hoop Cats lost by 16 at home to Gardner-Webb, though, the football team is the hot ticket for one more week. UK fans will be out in full force and full voice this weekend.

THE PAYBACK: Kentucky thoroughly outplayed Tennessee last year in Knoxville only to lose 17-12 because of a disastrous delay-of-game penalty on second-and-goal at the Vol 3-yard line in the final 4 minutes.



Any reasonable man could look at this game matching the SEC's No. 1 passing attack against UT's No. 11 ranked pass defense and be expected to conclude Kentucky will finally restore some sense of competitive sanity to this series with arch rival Tennessee.

If it's going to happen this would appear to be the year it will. Appalachian State knocked off Michigan to start the season. Alabama lost to Louisiana-Monroe last week. Navy ended its legendary losing streak to Notre Dame. Strange as it sounds this wouldn't even be an upset. Despite Tennessee's 22 years of dominance over the Big Blue, oddsmakers have installed Kentucky a field goal favorite over the Vols.

Don't bet on it.

As well armed as the Wildcats may be to slice up UT's secondary they are ill equipped to stop the Vols high-powered offense which now features a potent running attack led by the indomitable Arian Foster at tailback. Combine that with a passing game that is as efficient as it is effective and it's clear Kentucky's defenders will have their hands full.

If you look at this game simply in statistical terms it's easy to see it as a dead heat. Kentucky (7-4) is No. 4 in total offense and No. 10 in total defense, Tennessee (8-3)is No. 5 in total offense and No. 11 in total defense. But that takes account of the complete season when the most relevant numbers are from the last four games. Tennessee is 4-0 and Kentucky is 1-3.

That indicates Tennessee has more momentum than Kentucky but it also reflects the Vols' superior depth. As the Wildcats bolted from the starting gate this fall they had a favorable schedule and plenty of energy. The first five games were against Eastern Kentucky, Kent State, a sub par Louisville, a generous Arkansas and Florida Atlantic. Four of those games were at home.

Once Kentucky got into the meat of the schedule — South Carolina, LSU, Florida, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Georgia they looked quite ordinary outside of an impressive triple overtime win against LSU in Lexington. However they were 2-4 overall and failed to put back-to-back victories together. In games against LSU and Florida, the Wildcats scored a combined 82 points for an average of 41 points. In their next three games against Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Georgia, Kentucky scored a total of 54 points for an average of 18 per contest.

The Wildcats will get an emotional boost from playing at home with a chance to end the nation's longest losing streak in a series, but eventually Tennessee's fresher legs, superior speed, better depth, mo momentum, higher emotional reserves and greater incentive will take their toll.

You can bet on it.

Inside Tennessee Top Stories