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November 27, 2010Saturday Tennessee looks to become bowl eligible, keep a nearly three decade winning streak alive. The senior class looks to finish off their careers with in grand style after dealing with more than college players should have to deal with the last couple of years. How does Tennessee get the win and keep their 2010 season alive? Here's four keys in what we call The Cheat Sheet.
1. Turnovers - During the Vols three game winning streak, the defense has forced 12 turnovers. They also have three stops on fourth down and a blocked field goal. Kentucky comes in with 16 turnovers on the year and have turned it over 6 times the last three games and 9 of their 16 tunovers have come on the road this year. Turnovers are game changers and have been huge for the Vol defense the last three weeks. That needs to continue Saturday in the home finale.
2. Start fast - Tennessee has outscored their opponents 94-44 in the first quarter. In Neyland Stadium, they have outscored the opposition 64-13 in the first quarter. On the road, Kentucky has been outscored 34-30. For the Vols, starting fast has been the norm. That must continue on Saturday. One of the things that Tennessee has been able to do is to play relaxed and they have been loose to start games. There's a lot of pressure surrounding this game. Derek Dooley's challenge is to have his team emotionally ready to play, but not too tight.
3. Win first down - If you don't think being successful on first down is important then all you need to do is look at last week's Vanderbilt game. Last week, the Vols averaged over 10 yards on first down in the first half. They had 146 of their 242 first half yards on first down. By being ahead in down and distance Tennessee was 6 of 9 on third down. In the second half, the Vols generated just 35 yards on first down and only converted one third down. Offensively, the Vols need first down success and they need to mix up the run and pass after being predictable in the second half in Nashville. Defensively, it's always about winning first down and Tennessee needs to keep Kentucky's offense in third and long eliminating how multiple they can be.
Find Randall Cobb - Dooley is right in that you can't completely take away or shut down the talented athlete, but Tennessee must know where he is at all times and not give him anything easy. A year ago, Cobb had 101 yards rushing and 24 yards receiving. Thankfully for the Vols, Kentucky forgot about him inside the 10 yard line in the last 90 seconds, after Cobb had carried it four straight times for 27 yards to put Kentucky in position to win. This year Cobb has 66 catches on the year and 7 touchdowns. He has 5 rushing touchdowns in 376 yards on the ground. Cobb has a punt return for a touchdown, and 3 of his 5 completions as a quarterback have been for touchdowns. Kentucky has other weapons, but Cobb is their best and Tennessee must not let him beat them.