5 Big Things: Vols vs. Kentucky

Tennessee defensive back LaDarrell McNeil (33) celebrates a fumble recovery by Tennessee linebacker Dontavis Sapp (41) after Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews (87) dropped the ball during the first half at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013. (ADAM LAU/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Lau

Tennessee defensive back LaDarrell McNeil (33) celebrates a fumble recovery by Tennessee linebacker Dontavis Sapp (41) after Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews (87) dropped the ball during the first half at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013. (ADAM LAU/NEWS SENTINEL)

1 Avoid Eight: The weight of Tennessee football history rides on the Vols’ shoulder pads Saturday night. No UT squad has ever lost eight games in a season, a distinction it shares only with Ohio State among power-conference programs. In 2008 and 2012 UT dodged that dubious fate with wins over the Wildcats to finish 5-7. Can they pull it off again?

2 Beware the Receiver: Not catching passes, but playing quarterback. The 2011 game will forever live in infamy because receiver Matt Roark played quarterback and led the Wildcats to an improbable upset to end the 26-year losing streak to UT. QB Jalen Whitlow is banged-up this week, so watch out for Ryan Timmons or Javess Blue. Just sayin’.

3 Score. Duh!: Tennessee’s offense is no juggernaut and recent history suggests a subpar game from a subpar unit won’t end well. Like, for example, the 14-10 loss last week to Vandy. The last trip to Lexington was a 10-7 fiasco. Don’t put it all on the defense.

4 Palardy, Please: Kicker Michael Palardy is arguably Tennessee’s MVP. That burden was underscored when he had a bad game last week, leading to all sorts of ramifications in the loss to Vanderbilt. The Vols need Palardy to impact the game hitting field goals and changing field position with punts and kickoffs.

5 For the Seniors: Twenty-something seniors bow out tonight. Their UT experience didn’t turn out to be what they signed up for. They deserve to at least go out with a smile on their faces.

Mike Strange

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