Editor’s note: For SEC games this season, Daniel Lewis will put together a blueprint for how Tennessee can have its best chance to knock off that week’s opponent. It’s written from a Tennessee coach’s mindset and isn’t necessarily representative of how RTI predicts the game to go.
Offense: Two keys this week: 1. Run the football 2. Protect the football. We could almost stop there because if we do those two things to the best of our ability, we have a chance to score a lot of points and put ourselves in a great position to win.
We have a chance to put big numbers up on the ground. The Wildcats give up 200 yards per game rushing and they conceded over 300 to Georgia last week. Since Dobbs has taken over for us on the third drive against Alabama, we’ve racked up 505 yards on the ground in less than two full games. We have every opportunity to move the ball on the ground. We’ll get Joshua Dobbs about 12 carries and then let him improvise when needed, we’ll get Jalen Hurd 25+ touches and Marlin Lane will spell him and can get 10+. We’ll utilize the screens and draws as well, drawing Bud Dupree up the field and then getting the ball past him that way.
We have to protect the ball in the process, however. Kentucky is third in the SEC in turnover margin (+8) and they do a great job of taking the ball away – that will be their best chance at stopping our offense.
We’ll take a few shots in the passing game when situations dictate it. We’ll be expecting man coverage as the Wildcats try to stack the box to limit our running game. We need more consistent accuracy from Dobbs. He’s made some spectacular throws, but he has a few each game we’d want to take back. If those are incompletions, we can live with that, but we can’t have him give UK easy points. Consistent tackling has been an issue for UK as well, so we’ll use some quick-hitters as well and make them tackle Pig Howard, Von Pearson, Marquez North and others in space.
If we do all that, we have a chance to hit the 30s and maybe even the 40s on the scoreboard. We expect UK to put plenty of points on the board as well, so we have to do our job to make sure we have plenty of cushion.
Defense: Two keys for us: 1. Limit quarterback Patrick Towles in the throwing and the running game 2. Eliminate the massive plays.
Towles is a very talented football player. He may not be known nationally yet, but we know all about him and NFL scouts are taking notice as well.
He’s big at 6-5, 240, can make all the throws and he’ll pull it down and run when he needs to. He’s got some Ben Roethlisberger/Byron Leftwich in him. He takes pretty good care of the football as well, with just six interceptions.
That third-and-18 conversion that Dylan Thompson converted on the ground against us can’t happen again. But that’s what Towles can do if we don’t keep our discipline.
If we give up a few 20-30 yard type plays, so be it. Our offense is going to put points on the board as well, so we just can’t give up the massive/catastrophic 70-80 yard type of plays. Communication will be key. We have to do a better job of getting calls in quickly, getting the defense aligned and making sure everybody on their offense is accounted for. While they have several good athletes, they don’t have a Pharoh/Amari Cooper type that will just torch us repeatedly unless we leave them uncovered.
We’re also going to work some younger guys like Rashaan Gaulden, Dewayne Hendrix and Todd Kelly into the mix this week to keep our veterans fresher.
If we keep the Wildcats under 30 points, we have a great shot to win this game.