Tennessee and Kentucky fans don’t need any reminding that the Volunteers have a winning streak over the Wildcats that spans more than a quarter-century.

But when UT (5-6, 1-6 SEC) travels to the Commonwealth state for the regular-season finale of both teams, the Vols’ 26-game winning streak, the longest in the country, won’t mean a thing, said Derek Dooley.

“I know a lot of people are going to want to try to change the focus away from Kentucky and to other things like streaks and bowls and all that,” Dooley said. “But it’s so important that our team takes the same approach they did last week, and then they take the approach during the game that they did against Vanderbilt because, like every SEC game, it’s going to be hard. It’s on the road. They played Georgia to the wire (19-10, last Saturday) and it’s their last home game.”

Last week, the Vols won their last home game of the season, a 27-21 overtime victory over in-state rival Vanderbilt. The win over the Commodores kept UT’s bowl hopes alive, and a win over the Wildcats (4-7, 1-6) would ensure postseason play for the Vols.

“You don’t really play to go to a bowl,” Dooley said. “You play to beat the team you are playing. It’s important to understand what is out there to motivate you a little bit. When it gets tough, you have to be able to show a little grit and the ability to persevere when it gets tough.”

It’s been a tough season for UT with key losses and injures to many of the team’s best players, including sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray, who returned last week from a broken right thumb on his throwing hand and provided a spark UT desperately needed.

UK coach Joker Phillips believes the Vols’ record isn’t a true indicator of what kind of team UT is.

“If you look at Tennessee’s losses, they’ve lost to No. 1 (LSU), No. 2 (Alabama), No. 3 (Arkansas), No. 13 (Georgia), No. 14 (South Carolina) and then-No. 16 (Florida),” Phillips said. “So still a good team.”

Like many SEC contests, Phillips believes the game will come down to which team has more success on the ground and avoids turnovers, something the Wildcats didn’t do in UT’s 24-10 victory in Knoxville last season.

“The thing it comes down to is who can run the ball, who can protect the ball,” Phillips said. “Last year, we didn’t protect the ball. We had our opportunities. We let the ball get away from us a couple of times. In the end, it doesn’t give you a chance to win big games, especially on the road.”

Success running the ball hasn’t been either team’s strong suit this year, especially for the Vols. Senior tailback Tauren Poole, who rushed for over 1,000 yards last season, has just 661 yards and five touchdowns on the ground this season. But last week against Vanderbilt, Poole had one of his best games of the year, running for a season-high 107 yards and a touchdown.

“I’m going to attack this week of practice just like I did last week,” Poole said. “I took last week of practice like I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want Kentucky to be my last game as a Volunteer.”

With Bray’s thumb still not at 100 percent, UT used the pistol formation, with Bray taking snaps in the backfield and not under center against the Commodores, and the result was a better running game. UT is expected to do much of the same on Saturday against Kentucky, which Poole prefers opposed to a traditional formation.

“It allows me to be more patient,” Poole said. “It allows me to see the holes a lot faster and that’s exactly what happened.”

Defensively, the Vols face a Kentucky offense that has struggled all season, averaging just 16.4 points and only 263.6 yards of offense per game. UT linebacker Curt Maggitt, who was named SEC Freshman of the Week after his performance against Vanderbilt, understands what’s at stake for the Vols.

“I know this game has a lot on the line,” Maggitt said. “I’m ready to put it all on the line for the players next to me and the seniors.”

Despite UT being a favorite by odds makers for the first time all year in an SEC game, the task of extending its winning streak over the Wildcats as well as extending its season an extra game won’t be an easy one.

“We’ve got a big challenge and we’ll see if we can live up to it,” Dooley said. “If we can, people will be feeling pretty good. If we can’t, it’ll be kind of a disappointing end.”

Kickoff is at 12:21 p.m. and the game will be televised on the SEC Network.