Styles can make fights. In college football, that ends up being true more than not as there are so many different types of offensive and defensive schemes being used throughout the national landscape. Down at Neyland Stadium this weekend, that will 100 percent be true.
Kentucky huddles every play and Tennessee never huddles. Kentucky often uses condensed formations and Tennessee will stretch out its formations as far as possible. Kentucky gets under center and Tennessee hardly ever gets under center. Kentucky goes slow and Tennessee goes fast.
Two different playing styles will be on display on Saturday night in a top-20 matchup in the SEC East.
“I think it’s unique in that just the tempo of play is so dramatic between the two offenses,” Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel told reporters on Monday. “It’s a different style of football game, understanding that limited opportunities for us. And I’m saying that just the number of possessions that will be in this football game. It’s something that as a football program, we’ve got to understand going into this one too.
When getting into the minutia of tempo, things begin to look drastically different between the border rivals. Tennessee is No. 5 nationally in plays per minute (2.88), and Kentucky is dead last in college football (1.87). We have a classic tortoise vs. hare matchup waiting for us on Rocky Top.
“I think we can use it to our advantage,” Will Levis said about Kentucky’s slow pace compared to Tennessee’s no-huddle approach with tempo. “I think if we’re able to string together a couple 10-plus play drives and take a lot of time off the clock that just doesn’t give them as much time on the field. It makes it easier on our defense giving them the rest that they need. It’s going to be really tough for them going against that tempo offense, and then for us to go three-and-out we’re not helping the defense at all in that regard.
At the end of the day, the matchup on Saturday will come down to total possessions and what each team does with them. If Kentucky can shrink the game and finish drives with points, it forces Tennessee to play in the mud in a contest where there could only be 9-10 total possessions. However, if the Vols can hit on some big plays and turn things into a track meet by getting some key stops on defense, it puts Kentucky in a very dangerous situation.
Whoever wins the pace-of-play battle will seemingly have the advantage. Both teams want to win football games in different ways. The clash of styles will be fascinating to watch.