Managing editor Nathanael Rutherford and staff writer Ben McKee will either buy or sell the likelihood of several things happening each week before a Tennessee football game. Here are their takes on the Vols’ match-up with Missouri.
Buy or Sell: Jarrett Guarantano throws for 275 yards.
If Tennessee wants to win this game, I think they have to pass the ball and pass it a lot. I think Guarantano should throw the ball at least 30 times in this game, which means he’d have to average just over nine yards an attempt if he throws exactly 30 passes. That’s plenty doable with the receivers Tennessee has and with how bad Missouri’s secondary is.
I believe Jarrett Guarantano will play well against a poor Mizzou secondary, but I believe he’ll throw between 240 and 260 yards. He’s only thrown for over 275 yards once in his career, and that was in the Auburn game. This season, he’s only thrown for over 200 yards twice due to poor offensive line play. The O-line played well last week against a strong Kentucky defense, but I’m not sold they can play that well on a consistent basis.
Buy or Sell: The Vols can hold Drew Lock to under 275 yards.
The Vols’ secondary hasn’t been bad for most of this season, but when they’ve faced exceptional passers, they’ve struggled. Will Grier threw for over 400 yards in the Vols’ season opener, and Tua Tagovailoa threw for over 300 yards. I know Tennessee’s defense has grown since those games and has gotten better overall, but the back end of UT’s secondary still concerns me. Missouri has some great weapons in their receiving corps, and they can do some major damage.
Terry Wilson only threw for 175 yards last week, but he had plenty of open receivers. I trust Bryce Thompson and Alontae Taylor, but the list of defensive backs I trust in the Vols’ secondary doesn’t extend much further. Drew Lock lives on the same planet Will Grier and Tua Tagovailoa do in terms of talent. Grier threw for 429 yards and five touchdowns against Tennessee’s secondary, and Tagovailoa threw for 327. Even Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham threw for 322 yards.
Buy or Sell: Tennessee can intercept two passes.
Three times this year, Drew Lock has thrown two interceptions in a game. If Tennessee wants to win this game, they’re going to have to force a couple turnovers. I expect Lock to pick up a lot of yards through the air, but I expect Jeremy Pruitt to dial up some blitzes and different coverages to confuse Lock and make him make mistakes. Tennessee’s defense doesn’t have the talent to shut down Missouri’s offense, but they do have the players and the coaching to make an opponent second guess themselves. Tennessee did it to Jarrett Stidham, and they can do it against the Tigers too.
Can they? Absolutely. Will they? I don’t know about all that. But they are more than capable of forcing an erratic Lock, at times, into some turnovers. Lock has thrown eight interceptions on the season, the second-most in the SEC. He’s thrown two picks on three separate occasions this season, including last week against Vanderbilt. If Tennessee does pick Lock off multiple times, it’ll be because the Vols’ front-seven is able to generate pressure. If not, the future first round draft pick will pick Tennessee’s secondary apart.
Buy or Sell: The Vols won’t allow 200 rushing yards.
The one area I’m more concerned about with Tennessee’s defense than facing Drew Lock is stopping the Tigers’ rushing attack. Unlike Kentucky, Missouri doesn’t just ride one running back into the ground and depend on him to do all the damage in the run game. Missouri has two extremely capable backs who have combined to run for 1,457 yards and 16 touchdowns. Missouri has gone over 200 yards rushing in six of their 10 games this season. I think they’ll pick up their seventh on Saturday.
I’m very concerned about Missouri’s rushing attack, but it’s not as much as I’m worried about the Tigers’ passing attack. Both of Missouri’s backs, Larry Roundtree and Damarea Crockett, are capable of having career games on the ground. Crockett has already recorded one career-game against Tennessee, rushing for 225 yards and two touchdowns the last time he stepped foot in Neyland Stadium. The Tigers will have success on the ground, but I think Derek Dooley will make a concerted effort to win this game on the arm of Drew Lock.
Buy or Sell: There will be a targeting call on one of the teams.
At this point, I don’t know what targeting is. But I feel like we’ve seen a targeting call in about half of Tennessee’s games this season, so I’m going to go ahead and say one happens here. It may not be on Tennessee, and that would be a change of pace for the Vols this year.
For the simple fact that we see one every game and we have no idea what targeting is. The rule needs to be addressed this offseason.