After winning its first game in more than a month last week, the Tennessee Volunteers head back out on the road to take on the surging Missouri Tigers.
Missouri is about as streaky of a team as you will find, but the Tigers have won their last three games, including a 45-16 rout of Florida last week. Mizzou also possesses a lethal offense which can strike for a touchdown from anywhere on the field.
The Vols almost certainly need to win this game to reach the six-win mark and qualify for a bowl berth, but Missouri heads into the contest as a 10-point favorite.
After a 1-5 start with its only win over FCS Missouri State, Mizzou looked like it could be headed towards a pretty abysmal season. But after three consecutive wins and a favorable close to the schedule, Missouri looks like it could now finish the year 7-5.
Missouri gave up 253 points in its first six games of the season, losing all but the opener to the aforementioned Missouri State Bears. But after a change at defensive coordinator, Missouri’s defense has been able to hold opponents enough to let its offense outscore teams.
In its last three games, Mizzou defeated Idaho 68-21, Connecticut 52-12 and Florida 45-16. The Tigers seem to have things rolling offensively.
Tennessee does have the top passing defense in the SEC, but Bob Shoop is going to have to figure out a way to keep that up against Missouri’s prolific air attack.
Missouri notched its first SEC win last week with its 45-16 drubbing of Florida.
Florida went to Columbia after firing head coach Jim McElwain and it seemed to have deflated the already limited Gators. Drew Lock threw for 228 yards and three touchdowns and Mizzou freshman running back Larry Roundtree III rushed for 83 yards and three touchdowns.
The Tigers built a 28-6 lead by halftime and kept their foot down on the Gators in the second half. Florida is not the team many thought it would be, but getting any SEC win in that fashion is huge for Missouri. When Tennessee takes the field on Saturday, it will be squaring off against a confident team.
QB Drew Lock - Tennessee may very well be facing the best quarterback it will see all season this weekend. Drew Lock has completed 60.7% of his passes for 2795 yards and 31 touchdowns so far this season. However, Lock has thrown nine interceptions, so hopefully Tennessee can stifle Missouri’s offense by making good use of the turnover trash can.
WR J’Mon Moore - Moore has been Lock’s top target this season, reeling in 44 catches for 740 yards and eight touchdowns. When Lock drops back to pass, locate Moore because there’s a good chance that’s where the ball is headed.
LB Cale Garrett - Missouri’s defense has certainly not been the bright spot of the team this season, but Garrett has helped turn it into a respectable unit. Garrett leads the team with 67 tackles, including five tackles for loss and two sacks.
This is certainly going to be a tougher test for Tennessee than one might have guessed a month ago. Although Missouri has the same record as Tennessee at 4-5, the Tigers seem to have figured some things out.
Tennessee is probably going to have to put forth its best offensive effort of the year - save maybe Georgia Tech - to stay with Mizzou. But if Tennessee’s defense can at least somewhat contain the Tigers’ offense, the Vols have a chance.
While it may not look great for Tennessee, I expect this game to be a battle. Tennessee is going to keep giving the ball to John Kelly and make Missouri’s defense prove it can stop him, particularly with the uncertainty at quarterback for the Vols.
Tennessee did not play perfectly in a must-win spot last week, but it played well enough to get a win over a solid team. Hopefully the Vols will come out Saturday with the same type of attitude and performance.