Tennessee's recruiting fell off a bit the past few years, which is why the 2008 team went 5-7 and the 2009 team enters the regular-season finale with a 6-5 record. The Vols still have some quality players; they just don't have as many as they did in the late 1980s, the 1990s and the early 2000s. This has enabled Kentucky to close the talent gap.
Even when UK's talent was similar to UT's in the past, though, the Vols could count on the Big Blue being decimated by injury when the teams met in late November. In fact, the '09 Wildcats are thin at a number of positions ... but the Vols are even more so. Several key players will miss Saturday night's game and several more will be playing hurt. As a result, Tennessee will need help from walk-ons at a half-dozen positions.
Here are some other factors that will be weighing in Kentucky's favor Saturday night at Commonwealth Stadium:
- Ole Miss' Dexter McCluster gashed Tennessee as a direct-snap tailback (282 rushing yards) in a 42-17 Rebel romp two weeks ago. Kentucky's Randall Cobb excels as a direct-snap tailback and has the added incentive of having grown up in Alcoa, just 20 minutes from the UT campus. You know he'll be up for this game.
- Kentucky is on a roll, having won five of its last six games. The Wildcats posted SEC road wins at Vanderbilt and Georgia the past two weekends. Conversely, Tennessee is coming off the lopsided loss at Ole Miss and a lackluster home defeat of Vandy the past two weekends.
- The Big Blue ranks 14th nationally in pass defense. The Big Orange has passed for fewer than 200 yards in just four games this fall, losing three - at Florida (93 yards), at Alabama (93 yards) and at Ole Miss (176 yards).
- Kentucky has lost the past 24 games in the series. Odds are, the Wildcats have been reminded of that a few dozen times this week - by media, by fans and even by their own coaches. The Big Blue's intensity level will be off the charts by kickoff time Saturday night.