Tennessee will try and stay hot and keep their winning streak alive on Saturday night in Columbia, Missouri against the Missouri Tigers. You talk about two teams going in opposite directions — Missouri has lost four straight, which includes losses to Kentucky and Vanderbilt. This all coming after a 5-1 start.
As you know, Tennessee did the exact opposite, starting ice cold and heating up late. With Kelly Bryant back under center, can Missouri stop the bleeding before the end of the season? If they do, they’ll have to find some offense.
Derek Dooley’s offense has scored 6, 0, 7 and 14 points in the last four games. Kelly Bryant returned last week, but ran into a tough Florida defense. The Tennessee defense isn’t quite on the Gators’ level, but they’ve really come on in recent weeks. The Volunteers rank 34th now in total defense, a number that has come way down since the start of the year.
When you consider Missouri has the 9th ranked defense in the country, that Vegas total of 45 becomes pretty questionable.
The script flips when you look at the offensive numbers. Missouri comes in with the 82nd ranked offense, while Tennessee checks in at 109th — still lagging behind from that awful start to the season. The Volunteers have come to life a bit over the last month, but neither side’s attack is really anything to write home about.
QB Kelly Bryant: Missouri was rolling along before Bryant went down with an injury. Bryant returned against Florida, but looked rusty. Can he find it again against Tennessee?
He’s thrown for over 2,000 yards this season, plus 14 touchdowns.
RB Larry Roundtree III: Missouri’s lead back sits just shy of 700 yards on the year. He’s averaging almost five yards per carry and has found the endzone eight times on the ground.
TE Albert Okwuegbunam: A legitimate NFL prospect, Okwuegbunam is the main redzone target for Missouri. He’s only got 26 receptions on the season, but six of those have gone for touchdowns.
LB Nick Bolton: 81 tackles on the season is nearly double what anyone else has on the team. He’s also added two interceptions on the season.
DL Kobie Whiteside: The 6-1, 310 pound junior leads the team with seven sacks on the year, playing from the interior. Expect to see him disrupting the pocket on Saturday night.
Jeremy Pruitt on Missouri
“The way these guys play on defense, they play extremely hard, present lots of different looks, create negative plays,” Jeremy Pruitt said of Missouri on Wednesday. “Lots of tight coverage that you’ve got to overcome.”
“Defensively, for us, it starts with the quarterback,” Pruitt said of Bryant. “Got to be able to contain the quarterback. He presents a lot of different issues with quarterback runs. It’s kind of like playing against wildcat, except you’ve got a guy that can make throws back there.”
- Darnell Wright is expected to return and play against Missouri at right tackle.
- Senior cornerback Baylen Buchanan won’t be able to play this year after some late hope suggested he may. Expect him to redshirt and return next year, assuming all is well with his spine.
- Pruitt noted that Tennessee “should have everybody” for Saturday following the bye week.