Tennessee will play its final home game of 2018 on Saturday when it hosts Missouri. The Vols come into this game coming off a 24-7 win against No. 11 Kentucky, but Missouri is a 5.5-point favorite in Knoxville.
Will Tennessee reach bowl eligibility this week or play a do-or-die game against Vanderbilt in its final game?
Conner Knapp: Tennessee 27, Missouri 23
This pick is based mostly on momentum. I think Missouri is better than Tennessee at most spots — the Tigers could quite easily be 8-2 entering this game — but something just feels like the Vols will be able to build upon their huge win last week over Kentucky.
The Tigers struggled with Vanderbilt last week at home and come into an environment which will surely be raucous with Tennessee having a chance to clinch a bowl berth at home.
I’ll bet on Jeremy Pruitt.
Terry Lambert: Missouri 27, Tennessee 23
This is an impossible game to pick. Tennessee is improving, sure. They aren’t really the issue here. My problem is this: which Missouri team shows up? Will Drew Lock be on target?
There’s no doubting Tennessee’s motivation here. They’re just one win away from getting to bowl eligibility, plus it’s senior day. Both side of the football seem to be making progress, outside of a couple of bumps in the road here and there.
The question again is, which Missouri shows up? Just two weeks ago, the Tigers embarrassed Florida in Gainesville. Just one week ago, they nearly lost to Vanderbilt at home.
Ultimately, I think Missouri is just balanced enough to give Tennessee issues. Pruitt was able to key in on Benny Snell last week. He won’t have that luxury this week. I think it’s a fourth quarter game that the Tigers find a way to win behind the arm of Lock.
Noah Taylor: Tennessee 30, Missouri 27
Two weeks ago, Missouri and Drew Lock looked like they finally gotten over the hump in a 38-17 win in Gainesville. Up until that point, they had made their living as a team that was probably better than their record indicated.
They put up nearly 400 yards on Georgia in 43-29 loss where the then-No. 2 Bulldogs put them away in the fourth quarter. They were leading at South Carolina late until a a weather delay that lasted more than an hour threw off their momentum in the final minutes. They only lost to Alabama 39-10.
But there’s been a different side of the Tigers too, one that reared its head last week where they had to scored late to beat Vanderbilt at home.
Tennessee, on the other hand, appears to be playing their best football in the month of November, and I think they’ll be prepared to face either the Missouri team we saw in the Swamp or the Missouri team we saw in Columbia a week ago.
Senior day, bowl eligibility on the line, a home field advantage and a head coach that seemingly has his team believing are recipes for a Tennessee win on Saturday.
Evan Winter: Missouri 28, Tennessee 24
I want to pick Tennessee so badly. The only thing that’s holding me back is that we haven’t seen this team sustain the level of play that we saw against Kentucky in consecutive games.
That is to be expected with a young team. I feel like Missouri is just a bit too balanced and Drew Lock is too good a quarterback for this Vols squad right now.
Don’t be mistaken, the Vols have a lot going for them in this game. A frenzied home crowd, better coaching, a couple of key Missouri injuries, and the fact this will be the last game in Neyland Stadium for the seniors are all working in Tennessee’s favor.
At the end of the day though, I don’t think Tennessee has enough to beat Derek Dooley.
Austin Burlage: Tennessee 24, Missouri 23
Missouri is an exceptionally difficult team to figure out. At times, they have looked similar to Tennessee, with a close loss to South Carolina and a blowout loss to Georgia. At other times they look superb, like in their dominating performance over the Gators in Gainesville. So let’s just focus on what we know.
We know that Tennessee is an improving team, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The Vols are coming off of a performance where they held Benny Snell and company to under 80 yards rushing for the game. Stopping the run will be critical again this week against Missouri’s talented running back tandem. We know that Missouri will be without one of Drew Lock’s favorite receivers. Tight end Albert Okuegbunam leads the team with receptions (43) and touchdown receptions (6), but will miss the game with a shoulder injury. Finally we know that Tennessee is fighting for a bowl bid with home field advantage.
Honestly, I think this all comes down to which Tennessee offense shows up. We’ve seen Coach Pruitt coaching up everyone on the field, including his offensive coordinator. Does Tennessee look to push the ball downfield - like the Auburn and Kentucky games - or do we attempt to stretch the field horizontally? I think we’ve seen enough this year to know what works. Chuck the ball down field, play strong defense, and Tennessee comes out with the win.