The Vols hope for a good day this Saturday as they host the Missouri Tigers at Neyland Stadium and the Florida Gators visit LSU in Death Valley. An LSU win coupled with a Vols win puts Tennessee back in the driver's seat in the SEC East.
Here are the keys to a Vols' victory this weekend.
Lean on the run, but use their advantage in balance. Do you remember last week when we pointed out that Kentucky ranked as the worst rushing defense that Tennessee had played this season? It was true. This week, though, the Missouri Tigers one-up them. As bad as the Wildcats are against the run, the Tigers are even worse. So expect Josh Dobbs, Alvin Kamara, and John Kelly to have another good day running the ball. Will they best their 376 rushing yards from last week? Maybe!
And do you remember last week when we said that Kentucky was also not especially good at defending the pass? That was true, too, and it is also true of Missouri's pass defense, which is somewhere between Texas A&M's and Kentucky's. The Vols put up only 223 passing yards against Kentucky last week, but that was largely because the running game was in the end zone before it was time to pass. Expect something similar again this week, with Tennessee having a great day on the ground and a good day through the air.
Commit to limiting the Tigers' passing yards. Do you remember last week when we said that Kentucky could have a good day running the ball against Tennessee but would probably struggle in the passing game? True! And a mirror image of that is probably true this week against Missouri, which has the best passing attack we've seen all year but not much to complement it on the ground. To be fair, it appears that the Tigers aren't quite as one-dimensional as the Wildcats are, but there is definitely more danger in one facet of the game compared to the other. Expect Tennessee to run a lot of nickel and to lean on Cam Sutton and the secondary to do what they can to limit big passing plays. Also expect them to give up a bunch of them anyway. The only real trouble is if the Tigers also start having success running the ball. If that happens, it will be a shootout, and we'll just have to hope the Vols' offense can score more points than the Tigers.
Focus. Again with the focus. We've actually seen the team play two complete games in a row now. But things sometimes break right when you put your attention somewhere else because you think they're fixed. So the guys need to make sure they're focused from start to finish again this week. Focus could be a real challenge as fans (and maybe even players) keep one eye on the LSU-Florida score, and if that result isn't what everyone wants, things could go sideways in a hurry.
But I think the team will be focused, that the offense will be humming again, and that defense will be able to do just enough to keep things mostly comfortable.
Tennessee 38, Missouri 26.
The tables for this week are below. But as always, a quick note on strength of schedule first. The Vols still hold the nation's most-difficult schedule, while Missouri's is ranked 34th. Here's a handy look at the relative strength of schedules. Wins are in green, losses are in yellow.
|1 (Alabama: L; 49-10)||6 (LSU: L; 42-7)|
|17 (Florida: W; 38-28)||17 (Florida: L; 40-14)|
|21 (Texas A&M: L; 45-38)|
|25 (App State: W; 20-13)|
|28 (Virginia Tech: W; 45-24)|
|29 (West Virginia: L; 26-11)|
|65 (Georgia: W; 34-31)||65 (Georgia: L; 28-27)|
|73 (Eastern Michigan: W; 61-21)|
|74 (MTSU: L; 51-45)|
|75 (Kentucky: W; 49-36)||75 (Kentucky: L; 35-21)|
|82 (Ohio: W; 28-19)|
|90 (South Carolina: L; 24-21)||90 (South Carolina: L; 31-21)|
|95 (Vanderbilt: W; 26-17)|
Processing Tennessee vs. Missouri.
|Tennessee||Missouri||Comps||Result against Comps||Guess|
|Next Worst||Next Best||Next Worst||Next Best|
|Tennessee rushing offense vs. Missouri rushing defense||187.6||225.3||None||Kentucky||None||Kentucky||360|
|Tennessee passing offense vs. Missouri passing defense||224.6||239.1||Texas A&M||Kentucky||Texas A&M||Kentucky||240|
|Tennessee rushing defense vs. Missouri rushing offense||216.8||191.0||Virginia Tech||Ohio||Virginia Tech||Ohio||180|
|Tennessee passing defense vs. Missouri passing offense||200.0||295.7||Virginia Tech||None||Virginia Tech||None||300|
|Tennessee scoring offense vs. Missouri scoring defense||33.8||29.1||Kentucky||Georgia||Kentucky||Georgia||40|
|Tennessee scoring defense vs. Missouri scoring offense||26.9||31.2||Ohio||Virginia Tech||Ohio||Virginia Tech||21|
Processing Missouri vs. Tennessee.
|Missouri||Tennessee||Comps||Result against Comps||Guess|
|Next Worst||Next Best||Next Worst||Next Best|
|Missouri rushing offense vs. Tennessee rushing defense||191.0||216.8||Delaware State||Kentucky||Delaware State||Kentucky||180|
|Missouri passing offense vs. Tennessee passing defense||295.7||200.0||Kentucky||LSU||Kentucky||LSU||220|
|Missouri rushing defense vs. Tennessee rushing offense||225.3||187.6||Georgia||West Virginia||Georgia||West Virginia||190|
|Missouri passing defense vs. Tennessee passing offense||239.1||224.6||South Carolina||Florida||South Carolina||Florida||240|
|Missouri scoring offense vs. Tennessee scoring defense||31.2||26.9||Eastern Michigan||Georgia||Eastern Michigan||Georgia||30|
|Missouri scoring defense vs. Tennessee scoring offense||29.1||33.8||West Virginia||Middle Tennessee||West Virginia||Middle Tennessee||35|
So . . .
Tennessee 280 rushing yards, 240 passing yards, 38 points.
Missouri 180 rushing yards, 260 passing yards, 26 points.