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Staff picks: Tennessee at Missouri

The staff is split.

NCAA Football: Kansas State at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Another gameday has arrived, and it’ll be another road test for the Tennessee Volunteers. Josh Heupel’s team will travel west to some of his old stomping grounds, looking to keep a blowout-win trend going against the Missouri Tigers.

Heupel’s teams have scored 60+ in both meetings with Missouri, where he once was the offensive coordinator before heading to UCF. However, Eli Drinkwitz has seemingly turned a corner with his program this year, sitting at 7-2 overall and fresh off of giving Georgia a game in Athens last week.

Tennessee still has an outside shot at representing the SEC East in Atlanta, so there’s plenty to play for here. Can Joe Milton and company stay hot this afternoon? Our staff is split.

On with the picks.

Terry: Tennessee 30, Missouri 27

The Tennessee offense is rolling (finally) due to an uptick in the performance of Joe Milton. The Volunteers have had the rushing attack going all year long, but the addition of the threat of the downfield passing game has taken them to another level since the Alabama game. I think that’s the difference this weekend.

Missouri is coming off of a strong performance at Georgia, where they ultimately came up short. What will the response be? You could make a case either way. They certainly haven’t forgotten about Tennessee running up the score on them last year, but you could also make a case for a letdown.

Josh Heupel seems to have Missouri’s number. He’s scored 60+ in both meetings against Drinkwitz, and despite obvious improvements on the Missouri side, I think he gets the better of Drink once again here.

Look for the Tennessee run game to take over once again. Brady Cook and the Tigers keep it close but ultimately can’t find the stop when they need it late.

Nick: Tennessee 24, Missouri 27

If this game was at home, I’d take the Vols.

But I just don’t trust this squad, in what’s likely to be tight game, to not make mistakes.

UT is one of the most penalized teams in the league, and a late-game defensive holding or a face-mask call, or offensive holding on a fourth-quarter drive, could swing the game to Missouri’s favor.

The Tigers have the SEC’s leading rusher, and I’m concerned about the Vols’ DBs ability to cover Luther Burden.

Tennessee has been playing better of late, and they’ve become a better football team, but it still hasn’t proven it can win a crucial road game.

I’m the site’s cynic, so perhaps my view is skewed, and Heupel and the offense have progressed enough to score on the nationally 65th-ranked passing defense and 24th-ranked run defense.

But with road games, I’m in “believe it when I see it,” mode until further notice. Kentucky was a positive step forward, but today will be the true test.

Matthew: Tennessee 28, Missouri 23

A lot of this game can be decided up front. Missouri has been great at keeping pressure off of Brady Cook for most of the season, but they’ve allowed a pressure over 30% the past two games. Nobody in the SEC has generated a higher pass rush win rate than the Vols, and only A&M and Arkansas have higher sack rates. If Tennessee can win pressuring with four, I think they win this game.

This is also a battle of two plus run defenses (Tennessee’s more so) and two quarterbacks capable of making big plays, but equally capable of the disaster play as well. I think Joe Milton settles in early, and that will get the ground game rolling and the Vols won’t look back.

Craig: Tennessee 41, Missouri 38

I think both teams are going to have some serious problems stopping the other. Despite a defensive onslaught last week against UConn, the Vols’ defense hadn’t looked right in the previous 6 quarters of football against Alabama and Kentucky. If Cook is given time, he will have a field day. Fortunately, Tennessee’s offense has hit its stride and should be able to keep up. This feels like a last-team-with-the-ball-wins kind of game, and I’ll say that team is Tennessee.

Christian: Missouri 33, Tennessee 30

The final road game for the Tennessee Volunteers comes in Columbia, Missouri — their second toughest test of the season so far. And, to be honest, I don’t think they’re up to the task. Missouri has a great offense (averaging 32 points per game) and proved last week that they can move the ball on the ground against a good defense. I’m not one for moral victories, but losing 30-21 in Athens is simply nothing to scoff at.

Tennessee is one of only three teams in the Top 25 to have not beaten a ranked team yet this season, and I don’t think today will be the day. Missouri’s front seven is formidable to say the least, and I don’t know if Tennessee can continue to find consistency in the passing game that they’ve had the last three weeks. I also think if Tennessee continues to be the most penalized team in the conference, it’s going to kill them on the road. Hopefully they can prove me wrong.