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Opponent Preview: Missouri Tigers

(Photo via John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports)

Record: 4-5 (1-4)
Conference: SEC
Head Coach: Barry Odom, 2nd year (8-13 overall)
Location: Columbia, Missouri

Leading Passer: Drew Lock — 179-of-290, 2,795 yards, 31 TD, 9 INT
Leading Rusher: Ish Witter — 92 carries, 504 yards, 3 TD
Leading Receiver: J’Mon Moore — 44 receptions, 740 yards, 8 TD

Missouri has been on a roll as of late, winning three consecutive games after getting off to a horrendous start. After a roaring start to the season in Week 1, the Tigers’ potent offense went stone cold for the next few weeks.

But over the last month, the Tigers’ offense has found its stride again.

After averaging just 10 points per game from Week 2 to Week 4, Missouri’s offense has averaged 45.4 points per game over the last five weeks, including 55 points per game in their three straight wins.

Granted, those numbers put up by the Missouri offense have been against bad teams. Idaho, UConn, and Florida all have losing records.

But so does Tennessee, and the Vols haven’t exactly been a great team this year either.

The Vols’ pass defense is technically the best in the SEC , and they’re tops when it comes to yards allowed per game. Tennessee has only given up 150 passing yards per game this season. But that number doesn’t tell the whole story.

Tennessee has only been passed on 203 times this season. That’s the second-lowest amount in the SEC. The Vols haven’t faced many pass-heavy teams this year, and most teams have elected to run on the Vols because Tennessee’s run defense has been poor. Only twice this season has a team attempted more than 30 passes against the Vols, and only five times has Tennessee’s opponent attempted more than 20 passes against them.

Missouri, meanwhile, has attempted at least 20 passes in every single game this season and has thrown the ball 30 or more times in six of their nine games. And they’re really good at throwing the ball too.

Drew Lock already has 31 passing touchdowns and is just 205 yards away from 3,000 on the year. And if that alone isn’t bad enough, Missouri’s rushing attack has come alive in recent weeks too, averaging 195 yards per game in their three wins. They’ve also scored seven of their 11 rushing touchdowns in those three games.

For a Tennessee run defense that’s the second-worst in the SEC in terms of yards allowed per game, that doesn’t bode well in the slightest.

Missouri’s offense is dangerous, but their defense isn’t. They rank in the bottom half of the conference in scoring defense, rushing defense, and passing defense. In fact, their pass defense is the second-worst in the SEC, as they allow 260.1 passing yards per game and have given up 14 touchdowns on the year. Only Kentucky’s pass defense is worse in the conference.

Tennessee already played Kentucky, and redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano had the best game of his young career in that game. If Tennessee’s offensive line doesn’t get manhandled all throughout the game, then expect Guarantano to be able to find the holes in Missouri’s secondary much like he did against Kentucky.

The Tigers also have the worst third down defense in the SEC, allowing opponents to convert on 47.7 percent of their third downs. This should come as good news to a Tennessee offense that is the worst in the SEC on third downs.

Missouri has also allowed the fourth-most touchdowns in the red zone in the conference this season. Once again, that should come as welcome news to a Vol team that has the worst touchdown percentage in the red zone in the SEC.

Tennessee should be able to find a way to put up some points against Missouri when they travel to Columbia this weekend. Unfortunately for the Vols, Missouri can also put up a ton of points, and they should be able to against a Tennessee defense that has struggled to contain good offenses this season.

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