Tennessee found a way to get it done against South Carolina on opening weekend and will now host the Missouri Tigers on Saturday.
The Vols are currently (+11.5) favorites, but we all know that nothing is guaranteed in college football. They need to treat the Tigers as if they were the Crimson Tide. This isn’t the week to overlook an opponent.
Let’s dive into this week’s game preview.
- All-time series: Missouri leads the all-time series, 5-3.
- Longest win streak: The Tigers won the first three meetings between the two teams, which currently stands as the longest streak.
- Interesting series fact: The Tigers are 3-1 against the Vols in Neyland Stadium.
- 2020 offensive and defensive rankings: The Vols currently own the sixth-ranked offense (8th passing, 5th rushing) and the sixth-ranked defense (ninth passing, fifth rushing). Missouri is 12th in total offense (ninth passing, 13th rushing) and 10th in total defense (10th passing, eighth rushing)
*Rankings are based off of SEC standings since a lot of other teams were already playing by the time the SEC started
What To Watch For
- Missouri’s quarterbacks: Who will emerge as the guy? Will the Tigers split game reps? Right now, Shawn Robinson and Connor Bazelak are listed as co-starters. Robinson was the 27th-most efficient passer on opening weekend, but his offense scored just 13 points. Maybe that was due to a tough Bama defense, but it doesn’t really matter since Bazelak is now 1A in terms of an option at quarterback.
- Tennessee’s third down offense: To say it was bad against the Gamecocks would be a compliment. The Vols converted one of 12 third downs on the night, good for a whopping 8.3% conversion rate. This has to improve and the offense has to find ways to extend drives. On the other hand, Missouri allowed Alabama to convert nine of 14 third downs, so there should be some chances for Tennessee to improve its numbers.
- The Tigers’ defensive backs vs. the Vols’ receivers: Missouri’s secondary was pretty damn good last year, but it was torched by Mac Jones for 249 yards and two touchdowns on 18-of-24 passing. The kicker is all of those stats came in the first half and on the first drive of the third quarter. The Vols receivers played really well against what is supposed to be a decent South Carolina secondary, so it will be interesting to see who comes out on top this weekend.
- Penalties: The Vols did pretty well in this regard until the fourth quarter. It really hurt their attempt to put the Gamecocks away. Missouri has the second-fewest penalties in the SEC so far with three. Tennessee needs to limit the mental mistakes, because those always allow underdogs to stick around until the end.
- The STAR position: We still don’t know what’s up with Shawn Shamburger, the incumbent STAR from last year. Shi Smith and the Gamecocks torched true freshman Doneiko Slaughter early and often, so you’d think that will be the MO for MO. We’ll find out at the end of the week if Sham is back, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
- QB Jarrett Guarantano: He has to take his game to the next level if the Vols want to get to the next level as a team.
- RB Ty Chandler: The senior running back dominated touches and snaps against South Carolina and played well. He should have a big game against the Tigers.
- WR Josh Palmer: Palmer looked every bit like a WR1 last week and is an integral part of this offense
- DL Elijah Simmons: Tennessee will need him to continue to step up like he did last week.
- OLB Deandre Johnson: I mean, he looked great. If he can keep playing like this then it will help Tennessee’s pass rush in a major way.
- CB Doneiko Slaughter: It’s understandable why he was picked on, but it’s not going to stop until he shows he can step up. Just keep getting better, kid.
- Quarterbacks: Whomever plays the most or makes the most plays will obviously have a big hand in what happens during this game.
- RB Larry Rountree III: This dude is a legit playmaker and is one of the best backs in the entire country. The Vols have to contain him.
- WR Jalen Knox: He’s supposed to be an important part of this offense and led the team in receptions and receiving yards last week.
- DL Kobe Whiteside: Easily the best defensive linemen, he’s also one of the best in the country. Whiteside will have to be accounted for on every play.
- LB Nick Bolton: Another one of the best at his position in the country. Bolton is a tackling machine and the leader of this defense.
- CB Ennis Rakestraw Jr.: This one’s big considering the fact that Rakestraw Jr. is a true freshman. Will the Vols go after him?
Injuries To Know (non-COVID related)
- G Trey Smith: Smith practiced on Tuesday and will be good to go on Saturday, however, it’s important know he injured his shoulder last week.
- CB Shawn Shamburger: We still don’t know what’s up with him, therefore, he goes on the list.
- DL Darel Middleton: Pruitt said that Middleton will get to practice on Wednesday, so that’s encouraging, but it doesn’t guarantee playing time on Saturday.
- CB Jarvis Ware: The talented corner hurt his knee last week against Alabama and is considered day-to-day.
- LB Aubrey Miller: Opted out of 2020 season this week.
So far, it looks like these two programs are heading in different directions, but it’s obviously still early.
Regardless, you have to like Tennessee’s chances in this one. There’s a reason why the Vols are favored by almost two touchdowns. Missouri is simply trying to figure things out with a new coaching staff, quarterbacks, and other positions while the Vols are trying to build on what they’ve done for the last two years.
Tennessee will win this game as long as Guarantano is solid and the Vols don’t make mistakes. After last week, I don’t think that happens, either.
It’d be a major surprise and total disappointment if the Vols are .500 after this game.