Distractions abound for the Volunteers after lead running back Jalen Hurd announced shortly after the team’s loss to South Carolina that he was transferring from Tennessee. Hurd rushed for 2,638 yards in his three-year collegiate career in Knoxville, including running for a team-high 451 yards this season.
He also accounted for 26 total touchdowns (20 rushing, 6 receiving) and has been replaced by John Kelly, who made his first career start against Tennessee Tech last week and rushed for 104 yards.
Meanwhile, Tennessee All-American kick returner Evan Berry will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. Berry led the SEC and ranked second in the nation with a kickoff return average of 32.9 yards per return. The junior led the nation as a sophomore with an average of 39.3 yards per kickoff return.
Tennessee is just 0.4 yards per play better than average from the line of scrimmage this season (0.3 yards per play better than average offensively and 0.1 yards per play better than average defensively). The Wildcats are also 0.4 yards per play better than average from the line of scrimmage, rating 0.5 yards per play better than average offensively and 0.1 yards per play worse than average defensively.
The concern for Kentucky backers is the fact that the Wildcats have underperformed away from home this season. Kentucky is averaging just 16.0 points and 297 total yards per game at 4.7 yards per play on the road, but it’s important to note that two of those games were on the road against Florida and Alabama.
Defensively, the Wildcats are allowing 33.3 points and 479 total yards per game at 6.3 yards per play on the road but, again, those numbers need to be viewed in the context of Kentucky’s opposition.
Here’s the best news for Kentucky investors – the Wildcats are averaging 33.0 points and 481 total yards at 6.5 yards per play in their last three games, two of which resulted in upset wins over Mississippi State (40-38) and Missouri (35-21). On the other hand, Tennessee’s stop unit has been gashed in conference play, allowing 35.4 points and 461 total yards per game at 6.2 yards per play.
From a technical standpoint, Tennessee is a money-burning 2-9 ATS in its last eleven games following a win by 20+ points, 1-5 ATS in its last six games after scoring 40+ points and 7-20-1 ATS in its last 28 home games versus teams with a winning road record.
The Wildcats remain undervalued by the betting market, posting a 5-1 ATS in their last six games. The main reason for not making the Wildcats a college football Best Bet is the fact that Tennessee is 23-1 SU and 18-6 ATS in this series, including 12-0 SU and 10-2 ATS at home.
That series’ domination alone is enough for me to temper my enthusiasm for the Wildcats, who are one win away from becoming bowl eligible (and most likely saving head coach Mark Stoops’ job). However, the math supports Kentucky and these teams have been trending in opposite directions for several weeks.
Grab the generous points with Kentucky as Oskeim Sports’ Free College Football Pick for Saturday, November 12!