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Tennessee Football Outranks Kentucky in Several Key Categories

Tennessee Kentucky Football
The Tennessee Football team taking on the Kentucky Wildcats. Photo by Anne Newman/RTI.

The Tennessee Volunteers will travel to Lexington this weekend for a game against No. 18 Kentucky on Saturday night.

At first glance, the teams are fairly different. Kentucky is led by program veteran Mark Stoops, while Tennessee is led by Josh Heupel in his first year in Knoxville. Additionally, the Wildcats have been in the AP poll since Week 6, while Tennessee has yet to crack the Top-25 this year. And lastly, well, Kentucky has a 6-2 record compared to Tennessee’s 4-4 record.

However, when really dissecting the numbers, both offensively and defensively, Tennessee actually has the better statistics in multiple categories. According to the SEC’s official team statistics page, Tennessee leads Kentucky in all eight offensive categories and 7-of-8 defensive categories.

SEC Team Offense – Conference Ranking and Total Number

  • Total Yards: No. 5 Tennessee (3,657), No. 12 Kentucky (2,930)
  • Yards per Game: No. 5 Tennessee (457.13), No. 12 Kentucky (366.25)
  • Passing Yards: No. 8 Tennessee (1,849), No. 14 Kentucky (1,528)
  • Passing Yards per Game: No. 8 Tennessee (231.13), No. 13 Kentucky (191)
  • Rushing Yards: No. 4 Tennessee (1,808), No. 8 Kentucky (1,402)
  • Rushing Yards per Game: No. 4 Tennessee (226), No. 8 Kentucky (175.25)
  • Total Plays: No. 4 Tennessee (299), No. 12 Kentucky (216)
  • Total Plays per Game: No. 4 Tennessee (37.38), No. 12 Kentucky (27)

SEC Team Defense – Conference Ranking and Total Number

  • Solo Tackles: No. 5 Tennessee (324), No. 9 Kentucky (282)
  • Assisted Tackles: No. 5 Tennessee (274), No. 8 Kentucky (250)
  • Total Tackles: No. 2 Tennessee (598), No. 7 Kentucky (532)
  • Sacks: No. 9 Tennessee (21), No. 11 Kentucky (16)
  • Sack Yards: No. 6 Tennessee (123), No. 11 Kentucky (107)
  • Passes Defended: No. 2 Tennessee (31), No. 6 Kentucky (27)
  • Interceptions: No. 8 Tennessee (8), No. 14 Kentucky (3)
  • Interception Touchdowns: Kentucky and Tennessee each have 1
  • Fumble Recoveries: No. 8 Tennessee (3), No. 13 Kentucky (1)
Tennessee Kentucky Football
Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker. Photo by Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics.

As you can tell, Tennessee outranks Kentucky in every team category except for one on the SEC’s Team Statistics page. Although that doesn’t count for every statistic in a football game or season, it does give great insight into how both teams have been performing, statistically, after eight games.

One of the most noticeable things from the chart is how much more efficient Tennessee’s offense is than Kentucky. While Heupel was originally brought in to revamp the offense, a jump into the Top 5 in most categories is impressive, to say the least. Overall, from an offensive perspective, Tennessee is better than Kentucky at what Kentucky does best: run the ball. Both teams have a rushing offense that ranks in the top half of the league, but Tennessee having Hendon Hooker’s rushing ability from the quarterback position has proven to be a difference-maker.

Additionally, there are some areas where Kentucky does outperform Tennessee. Particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Kentucky is giving up fewer yards on the ground and through the air on average each game. The Wildcats are allowing an average of 116 rushing yards and 219 passing yards per contest. That does make for a lower total than Tennessee, although, the Vols are within half-a-football-field away from both statistics. Through eight games, Tennessee is giving up about 144 yards on the ground and 249 in the air. In addition, Kentucky is giving up 20.8 points per game on average. Meanwhile, Tennessee’s opponents are sitting at 26.5 points per contest.

Lastly, Kentucky is giving up, on average, 335.6 yards per game. Meanwhile, Tennessee is allowing, on average, 393.8 yards per game.

Judging by the statistics, it looks like Saturday night’s game will be strength-on-strength. Unlike the Ole Miss game, which featured two explosive offenses, Tennessee’s best unit will go up against Kentucky’s best unit. Can Tennessee’s offense score enough to find Josh Heupel his first ranked SEC win? Or will Kentucky’s defense prove to be too stout for the Vols under the lights?

We’ll find out Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. ET on ESPN2 when the Tennessee Volunteers (4-4, 2-3 SEC) take on the No. 18 Kentucky Wildcats (6-2, 4-2 SEC).

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