The No. 3 Volunteers easily beat No. 19 Kentucky 44-6 on Saturday night to set up a matchup of 8-0 teams in a week after No. 1 Georgia beat Florida 42-20 in Jacksonville.
Kentucky had trouble covering Tennessee wide receiver Jalin Hyatt from the beginning of the game. He was wide open and caught a 55-yard TD pass on the first drive of the game and caught another TD with no Kentucky defender near him just before halftime to give the Vols a 27-6 lead at the break.
Hyatt’s second TD came after Kentucky was forced to punt with 37 seconds left. The punt was almost blocked and traveled just 19 yards to set up Tennessee at the Kentucky 35 with just over a half minute left.
Tennessee then needed just two plays to take a three-score lead into the locker room. After Kentucky had cut Tennessee’s early lead to a point at 7-6, the Vols went on a 15-play drive and an 8-play drive to build what turned out to be an insurmountable lead even before Hyatt’s second score.
The game was a rare matchup of a potential Heisman finalist QB in Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker and a QB being mentioned as a potential top-10 NFL draft pick in Will Levis. The potential Heisman finalist had the better game by far. Hooker threw for three TDs and ran for another and didn’t turn the ball over.
Levis didn’t get much help from his receivers and threw three interceptions as Kentucky’s downfield passing game was nonexistent. Levis finished 16-of-27 passing for a paltry 98 yards. Kentucky had 205 yards on 63 plays while Tennessee had 422 yards on 65 plays.
Georgia, meanwhile, didn’t sweat too much with Florida either. While the Gators got to within eight points in the third quarter, Georgia easily pulled away after that and made the final margin more representative of how the game played out. Dijon Edwards and Kenny McIntosh each rushed for two TDs and Brock Bowers had a ridiculous 73-yard TD grab on a pass that was deflected multiple times.
The Bulldogs will likely stay at No. 1 in Sunday’s AP Top 25 and Tennessee will probably remain at No. 3 as well after No. 2 Ohio State’s big win over Penn State. But we won’t be surprised if the rankings are flipped on Tuesday in the first edition of the College Football Playoff committee’s rankings. With wins over three teams likely to be in that first CFP top 25, Tennessee has a strong claim to the No. 1 spot based on how the committee tends to judge teams, especially at the beginning of November.
Could both teams make a claim to being No. 1 ahead of the biggest game at Sanford Stadium since Notre Dame’s visit in 2019? We’ll find out Tuesday night.