My thoughts on this game have changed drastically since the preseason. At that point it looked like it could be more of a defensive battle, a little bit like what we saw in Columbia last year, a game Tennessee won 19-8.
Now I’m expecting offense – and a lot of it. I don’t have a ton of confidence in either side slowing down the other.
Tennessee’s defense – especially against the run – has been atrocious recently. The Vols have given up over 350 yards of rushing in three of their last four games against FBS competition. Missouri certainly isn’t Alabama or Texas A&M, and the Tigers likely don’t even have the rushing firepower of Kentucky, but freshman running back Damarea Crockett has breathed some life into a stagnant rushing attack. He’s coming off a 154-yard day against Vanderbilt and is poised to put up big numbers against UT.
Missouri’s passing attack, which is based on quick reads and run-pass options, doesn’t allow the pass rush to disrupt it as much as some other offenses. I’m expecting the Tigers, a team that has been better than expected offensively, to put several scores on the board. They key for Mizzou will be capitalizing that offense into touchdowns. Their field-goal kicking situation is a mess, and the Tigers are 12th in the SEC in red-zone scoring conversions.
For as pleasant of a surprise as Mizzou’s offense has been, the defense has been far worse than expected. The Tigers are near the bottom of the league in almost every major defensive category. Tennessee should be able to pile up yards and points.
I expect Tennessee to put up massive numbers on the ground. Three 100-yard rushers isn’t out of the question against a Missouri rush defense that’s ranked second-to-last in the conference. And that should open up some opportunities through the air for Joshua Dobbs as well. Surely it’ll be Good Dobbs on Senior Day, right?
So while I see both sides moving the ball well and scoring a lot of points, I’m giving UT the edge because of some of Mizzou’s struggles in the red zone, and I think Tennessee has an overall edge in talent and on special teams – especially if Alvin Kamara and/or Cam Sutton are able to get involved in the return game.
There will be some similarities to last week’s game with plenty of highlights for UT, but also some frustrating moments, in what will be a relatively comfortable win for the Vols.
Pick: Tennessee 42-31
MVP: QB Joshua Dobbs
Dobbs’ final game in Neyland will be a memorable one with over 200 yards passing, over 100 yards on the ground and several touchdowns. No reason to hold back on any of the offense. The Vols have to do their part to have any shot at Atlanta. Run him as much as you need, and the results should be some big numbers and likely a Senior Day victory.
This one has all the feel of a scary game for Tennessee on the surface. But I just don’t see the Tigers pulling off the upset. Not on Senior Night in Neyland Stadium. And not when you delve deeper into the numbers.
Drew Lock and Missouri’s offense has been labeled as “explosive” and “potent.” And they’re certainly not pedestrian by any means. Missouri has some play-makers at every position on offense. But their stats have been severely bloated in three of their four non-conference games. Over 40 percent of their passing yards (1,188 yards out of 2,957 yards) came in games against Eastern Michigan, Delaware State, and Middle Tennessee State. The Tigers also scored 185 of their 312 points on the season in those three games.
Missouri is averaging just 19.3 points per game in SEC play. When the competition has stiffened, Missouri has wilted.
Tennessee’s defense hasn’t been stopping much of anyone as of late, however, so the Tigers should still be able to move the ball and score some points on the Vols. But Missouri’s offense isn’t built around a strong run game, and that’s been where the Vols have been torched lately. Kentucky was able to pile up rushing yards against Tennessee, but that’s not how Missouri’s offense operates. They have talent a the running back position, but it’s likely not enough to do what the Wildcats did.
Quarterback Joshua Dobbs will be playing his final game in Neyland Stadium. He’s not going to let the Tigers ruin his last game as a Vol in the home stadium. Throw in the fact that Missouri has the second-worst overall run defense in the SEC and the third-worst passing defense in the conference, and the Vols shouldn’t have a problem scoring and piling up the yards themselves.
The Vols are finally getting players back from injury, and the team’s chemistry issues seem mostly fixed. Tennessee should roll in this one.
Pick: Tennessee 44-23
MVP: QB Joshua Dobbs
This one is a pretty easy pick. Dobbs will be playing his final game in Neyland Stadium, and Missouri’s defense is bad on all fronts. Dobbs had over 300 yards of total offense against a bad Kentucky defense last week, and Missouri’s defense is even worse. We could end up seeing another 300-yard performance from Dobbs in this one.