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November 23, 2012

Phillips era ends in Knoxville as Cats meet Vols

KENTUCKY (2-9, 0-7 SEC)
Coach: Joker Phillips
Record: 13-23 (4-19 SEC) in three seasons at UK, overall
Last game: Kentucky 34, Samford 3
Next game: None
Roster | Depth chart
Coach: Jim Chaney (interim)
Record: 0-0.
Last game: Vanderbilt 41, Tennessee 18

Next game: None
Roster | Depth chart
Game/Series Information
Game Information
Site: Neyland Stadium (102, 455), Knoxville, Tenn.
TV: SEC Network (Dave Neal play-by-play, Andre Ware analyst, Cara Capuano sideline)
Radio: UK IMG Sports Network (Tom Leach play-by-play, Jeff Piecoro analysis; Dick Gabriel sideline); XM 199; Sirius 132.
Internet: Audio | Video
Favorite: Tennessee by 13

Series Information
Series record: Tennessee leads 74-24-9
At Knoxville: Tennessee leads 39-10-6
Coaches' records:Phillips 1-1 vs. Tennessee; Chaney 0-0 vs. UK

Last meeting:
Kentucky 10, Tennessee 7 (Nov. 27, 2011, in Lexington, Ky.)
The Wildcats broke the nation's longest active losing streak to an opponent in the most unlikely fashion. Without a quarterback, UK played senior receiver Matt Roark in the Wildcat formation the entire game. It caught Tennessee by surprise early, as UK scored a field goal on the opening drive. From there, the defense and special teams stonewalled Tennessee until UK scored a touchdown early in the fourth quarter to take a 10-0 lead that the Vols couldn't overcome. Kentucky fans swarmed the field after ending a 26-year losing streak against Tennessee.

Keys to the Game
1. Put Bray in a Corner: Most 4-7 teams don't feature a future a passing game trio of future NFL players. Quarterback Tyler Bray and wide receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson are the exception. Phillips and defensive coordinator Rick Minter spoke glowingly of UK's young secondary and its future potential all week. Shutting down Tennessee, the No. 1 passing offense in the conference, would be a bright spot in a dim season for Kentucky.

2. King of Catch: Senior receiver La'Rod King has three catches for 14 yards combined over his last three games. He has fewer receiving yards this year (410) than he did as a sophomore (478) when he wasn't even starting. Much of that isn't his fault, but Kentucky will have to score enough points to put Tennessee away for a win. Re-establishing King as a deep threat early would do wonders for the UK offense.

3. Tackle Title: Besides bragging rights, neither team has much left to play for. But UK's Avery Williamson (128 tackles) and Tennessee's A.J. Johnson (124) rank third and fifth in the nation in tackles, along with first and second in the SEC. Tackles will be secondary to which player can put his teammates in position to limit big plays, but keep an eye on these two. They're the most important players on their defenses, and they'll both be back next season.

Staff Predictions
Ben Jones, Staff Writer: Kentucky 27, Tennessee 21
Kentucky has proven it won't quit without the chance of a bowl game and a lame duck head coach. Tennessee will have to show the same fight, or they'll be caught off guard by the Wildcats. The Vols' offense could dump 30 points on the Cats easily, but the guess here is that they'll enter the game with a different mindset than Kentucky. Like last year, UK upsets the more talented Tennessee team behind a bit of offensive ingenuity and grit.

T.J. Walker, Staff Writer: Tennessee 34, Kentucky 10
Tennessee will be without fired coach Derek Dooley, and that will only help the Volunteers. It's been a long season for both Tennessee and UK, but the Vols have more talent and are playing at home. The Cats will struggle on offense like they have all season and will have a tough time slowing UT down on defense.

Aaron Smith, Staff Writer: Tennessee 28, Kentucky 17
It's tempting to pick the feel-good story of coach Joker Phillips ending his time at UK with a second straight win over the Volunteers, but I don't think that story is going to happen. The Volunteers, despite having to adjust to life without its own coach, still have more football talent than UK. That will be enough to end this season, and Phillips' time here, with another loss.

Brett Dawson, Publisher: Kentucky 20, Tennessee 17
Logical? Certainly not. Probable? Not even a little. There's almost no reason to believe Kentucky will be able to slow down Tennessee's offense, nor score enough points to come away with a win in Knoxville. But there was little logic or probability to last season's win either. The guess here is that the Kentucky players care more about sending their coach out on a high note than the Vols do about making Chaney's lone game as head coach memorable.

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