Kentucky vs. Tennessee NCAAF Week 9 Picks: A Must-Win Game for the Vols

Princeton Fant Tennessee Volunteers Alabama Crimson Tide
Tight end Princeton Fant #88 of the Tennessee Volunteers celebrates with offensive lineman Darnell Wright #58 against the Alabama Crimson Tide. Donald Page/Getty Images/AFP.

The Tennessee Volunteers remain undefeated, but the challenges keep coming. Two weeks after knocking off the Tide for the first time since the invention of the iPhone, the Vols face off against the 5-2 Kentucky Wildcats.

Kentucky is out of the SEC East race, but they can still be a thorn in the side of any talented team. The Wildcats play well in the trenches, and they have a quarterback who could be starting in the NFL next year.

Tennessee hosts this game, but things won’t be guaranteed for the Volunteers. With a massive game the week after, Tennessee will have to remain locked in to keep this from becoming a trap game.

The Vols are favored, but will they cover the spread? Here are some key details and NCAAF picks for this game.

Kentucky Wildcats vs. Tennessee Volunteers

Saturday, October 29, 2022 – 07:00 PM EDT at Neyland Stadium

A Trap Game for Tennessee

Last week, Tennessee played against UT Martin. The week after this one, the Vols play on the road against Georgia. If they win that game, they are in the driver’s seat of both the SEC and the national title race. However, that depends on beating Kentucky, a team looking to pull off a massive upset.

Every team will be circling Tennessee on the calendar for the rest of the season. Everyone wants to be the team that upsets the Vols and makes a statement, and Kentucky has the chance to do just that.

However, there are a few things working against this being a traditional trap game. For starters, Tennessee will host this game at night. Most trap games are either on the road or early in the day. The crowd will be rocking, and the Vols will want to put on a show.

Also, Kentucky is a rival for Tennessee. While this rivalry might not be as strong as some of the others in the SEC, the Vols still have a reason to be motivated against the Wildcats.

Now or Never for Will Levis

Will Levis entered the year as a Heisman contender and a true NFL Draft prospect. He will still be drafted, but he has not fully lived up to the hype. This is for a few reasons. He has struggled to stay healthy, and his arm talent has not shown improvement. He has looked good, but he has not been great.

Most importantly, Levis has lacked the ability to run the ball effectively. In the past, he has used his body to power through defenders and get first downs. Now, he has more sack yardage than yards from scrimmage. He also only has 2 rushing touchdowns, which is a significant step back for the athlete.

In other key moments, we’ve seen Levis struggle. He has fumbled on key plays when trying to get first downs. He hasn’t played up to the level of talent, and that simply must change for this game.

Keys for Each Team

Tennessee Volunteers

For Tennessee, fans should look for the defense to bring consistent pressure. Will Levis needs to be uncomfortable in the pocket. This will force him to make plays with his legs, and this is not a recipe for success.

Kentucky Wildcats

For Kentucky, you have to make plays in the secondary. Tennessee has one of the most underrated groups of receivers in the country, and Hendon Hooker is more than capable of distributing. If you’re going to stop Hooker from running with players in the box, then the corners and safeties have to lock down.

The Picks

Tennessee is only favored by 12.5 points by the best sportsbooks, and I think this is an easy bet for the Vols. They are too well-coached to look sluggish at home in a rivalry game. The offense will be electric, and I don’t expect Levis to do enough to keep this one close for 60 minutes.

However, I do expect the Wildcats to do enough to keep this game close for the first half. Both teams will put up points, which is why I have the Over hitting in this one.

NCAAF Pick: Tennessee -12.5 (-107) at PointsBet

NCAAF Pick: Over 63.5 (-110) at FanDuel