Butch Jones and the Tennessee Volunteers (4-5, 0-5 SEC) travel to Columbia to take on the Missouri Tigers (3-5, 1-4 SEC) under the lights of Faurot Field. Jones and the Vols have a two-game win streak over the Tigers. However, Missouri and head coach Barry Odom are fresh off a 45-16 manhandling of the Florida Gators last week.
The Tigers are red-hot entering Saturday’s game, as they have won three straight games by an average margin of 39 points. Prior to this streak, Odom and Missouri lost five straight games that included four in-conference teams. The Tigers righted the ship with a massive 45-16 blowout win over the Gators last week, where quarterback Drew Lock led the offense with 228 yards passing and three touchdowns.
Missouri is usually known for its passing game, but they destroyed Florida on the ground to set up throws for Lock. Tailbacks Larry Rountree III and Ish Witter filled in nicely for the injured Damarea Crockett with a combined 166 yards and three rushing touchdowns. Overall, the Tigers had over 200 yards on the ground to match Lock’s solid throwing game. Receiver Emanuel Hall led Missouri in catches and yards against the Gators with five catches for 113 yards. This was Hall’s third 100-yard game of the season.
Defensively, the Tiger front seven is playing better than they have all season. The Missouri front seven has logged 11 sacks and 29 tackles-for-loss in its past three games against Idaho, Connecticut and Florida. Defensive end Terry Beckner Jr. has lived up to his hype finally after registering four sacks and 15 tackles alone in the last three games. Meanwhile sophomore Cale Garrett leads the linebackers with 19 total tackles over the 3-game win streak. The Tigers secondary is still inconsistent at best. They have averaged 260 yards-per-game passing, which is one of the worst in the nation and second-worst in the SEC.
The Volunteers are coming off a 24-10 win over the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. Much like Missouri, Tennessee went on a four-game losing streak of its own prior to their win last week. However, unlike their friends in Columbia, the Vols are still trending the wrong direction headed in to Saturday’s game.
Tennessee’s offense was led by none other than running back John Kelly, who was fresh off a suspension for a marijuana citation. Kelly logged 79 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, as he had nearly half of the Vols offensive output.
The offense still struggled with only 210 total yards and 102 yards passing for quarterback Jarrett Guarantano. The redshirt-freshman has yet to score a touchdown since his debut against Indiana State eight weeks ago. However, his accuracy has seen improvement by notching back-to-back games with over a 70-percent completion rating.
Receiver is a concern for Tennessee, as leading receiver Marquez Callaway, Latrell Williams will not be available in Saturday’s game. Guarantano is already limited by the offensive play calling, but two of his targets being gone against the Tigers could be a problem. On the plus side, the Volunteers defense has grown better since the beginning of the year under defensive coordinator Bob Shoop. Linebacker Colton Jumper is the leader of the front seven for the Vols with 47 tackles and 4.5 sacks on the year. The Tennessee defensive line showed better ability to get to the quarterback against Southern Miss as they tallied four sacks in the win.
Defensive back Rashaan Gaulden once again asserted himself as the best defensive player for Tennessee with a team-high nine tackles against the Golden Eagles. Still, the biggest question mark for the Vols comes at the cornerback position. There have been multiple different combinations that have started at corner throughout the season. However, none of the combos seem to work very well. This will be the first time that the Tennessee secondary will face an air-raid offense, and it could get ugly.
The Vols offensive line will be unable to protect Guarantano as usual, which will lead to yet another inefficient week on offense for Tennessee. Drew Lock and the Missouri offense will shred the untested Volunteers secondary through the air. With the improved Tigers defense, it seems unlikely that Butch Jones and Tennessee win this one. Jones and the Vols will lose 31-17 on the road in Columbia on Saturday.
Featured image courtesy of Ben Proffitt
Edited by Ben McKee