Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) throws to a receiver during the first half of an NCAA college football game against the Tennessee Martin Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

Undefeated Tennessee Welcomes Kentucky to Neyland

Two highly-touted quarterbacks clash in Knoxville, Tennessee, Saturday as Will Levis and the No. 19 Kentucky Wildcats take on Hendon Hooker and the No. 3 Volunteers. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Tennessee’s Keys to Victory

The Vols are coming off a 65-24 stomping of UT-Martin.

So far this season, Hendon Hooker has the Vols’ offense firing on all cylinders. They are averaging north of 50 points, backed by almost 600 total yards of offense per game. Additionally, Hooker is having a Heisman-caliber year with over 2,000 yards passing and only one interception.

However, he will be lining up against a high-powered Kentucky defense, which has only allowed 16.4 points per game. The Wildcats will most likely dial up the pressure to try and move Hooker off his spot and force bad throws. If Hooker can continue to use his legs to extend plays, the Vols will put plenty of points on the board.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Vols have been less impressive. They are allowing 420 yards per game. Part of the issue has been that their secondary is patchy with injuries. Head coach Josh Heupel spoke Wednesday on the status of his secondary.

If Tennessee can piece together a decent defense for Saturday’s game, the Vols could run away with it. Lately, their offense has made other solid defenses look silly.

What the Wildcats Need

The Wildcats are coming off a bye week and head coach Mark Stoops was pleased with where the bye week fell on their schedule.

For Kentucky to win this game, a lot of pieces will need to come together. The first is at the quarterback position. Entering this season, Levis was viewed as a Heisman candidate. However, Kentucky fans have not seen what they were expecting. Levis’ touchdown to interception ratio is 13-5. This could prove troublesome because the Vols passing attack puts a lot of points on the board. Levis will need to be precise, but aggressive.

Next, the Kentucky offensive line needs to step up. This year, they have allowed Will Levis to get sacked 26 times. Against the Vols’ formidable defensive front, this lack of protection will be a problem and will cause Levis to get the ball out quickly.

Lastly, the Wildcats’ defensive players will need to have their best game of the season. Tennessee has arguably the best offense in college football, and they have yet to have a bad week. Defensive coordinator Brad White will need to draw up schemes to break their momentum. If they can get Hendon Hooker uncomfortable and force turnovers, they have a chance.

Coach Stoops said he has a lot of respect for all aspects of Hooker’s game.

Tennessee is the clear favorite, but anything can happen when two ranked SEC teams clash. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

About Steven Hieneman

Senior Sports Media/Business Administration dual major at the University of Florida, ESPN Gainesville WRUF sports correspondent.

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