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Most Important Vol: Missouri

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Our writing staff makes their picks for the game's most important player.

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Will Shelton - The Right Tackle

Whether it's Brett Kendrick (who dressed for North Texas but has been banged up for weeks) or true freshman Chance Hall, Tennessee needs all the protection it can get from the pass rush Missouri has consistently been able to generate.  They got Josh Dobbs six times last year and are averaging 3.2 per game in SEC play this year.  Ends Charles Harris and Walter Brady each have seven sacks this year, so it can't all be on Kyler Kerbyson to shut down one guy.  Tennessee will need to have one of its better games in pass protection from both sides of the line if it's going to beat Missouri on the road.

I_S -- Josh Dobbs

Whether he's been banged up the past couple weeks or the coaching staff has just been trying to keep him from getting banged up in games they thought they'd win easily, Dobbs has done a lot less running lately than he did earlier in the season. Tennessee is going to need his legs against Missouri, because all indications from Tennessee's history and from Missouri's history is that a pocket passer behind Tennessee's offensive line is going to make a feast for the Tigers defense. Tennessee should be able to score on Missouri--not necessarily in bunches, but enough to win--but they're going to need a good performance from Dobbs to do it. And a good performance from Dobbs usually means him making the defense worry about him making plays with his legs.

Hunter Turner -- Cam Sutton and The Defensive Backfield Boys

Look, Mizzou is bad on offense, but even bad offenses can sometimes get a little something going, especially with a short field. Dobbs and Kamara have put the ball on the turf at least once in each of the last three games, so it's entirely possible that an unfortunate case of fumble-fingers gives the Other Other Tigers life in the red zone. If that happens, the Tennessee defensive line should be able to handle a Mizzou run game averaging less than three yards a carry... but it will be up to Cam Sutton and his fellow defensive backs to make sure nothing crazy happens through the air. Missouri quarterback Drew Lock is inexperienced and inconsistent, but talented young players can and do make really nice plays from time to time. Sutton needs to make sure that the Vols dominate Mizzou's inexperienced wide receivers. The Other Other Tigers can't win if they can't score, right?

Chris Pendley - Darrin Kirkland, Jr.

Missouri's offense might've figured out things over the last couple weeks. (See, this is why you shouldn't have let them score a touchdown, MSU.) if that's the case, Missouri's success will hinge on their running game being consistent enough to win.

That's where Kirkland (and Jaylen Reeves-Maybin) come in. Prevent big plays on the ground, force Lock to beat you through the air, and take your chances. Missouri can win with three field goals, but they can't win with two. (Or they haven't yet, at least. Let's not find out if they can.)