Managing editor Nathanael Rutherford and staff writer Ben McKee will “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 the Missouri Tigers in Columbia.
Buy or Sell: Missouri scores in double figures on Saturday.
Nathanael: I think I’ll buy that this happens, but only barely. I’d be shocked if Missouri scores over 14 points on Saturday. The Tigers scored six points against Florida and none against Georgia. Those two teams have better defenses than UT, but Missouri only managed seven points against Kentucky, and I think the Vols’ defense is as good if not better than Kentucky’s. The last time Missouri scored in double figures was against Vanderbilt, but I think Kelly Bryant can guide the Tigers to around 10 points. Not much more than that, though.
Ben: I’ll buy that Missouri reaches double figures on Saturday, but it won’t be much more than 10 points. I would be surprised if a Tigers’ offense that is averaging 6.8 points over their last four games can score a whole lot. It’s an offense that doesn’t have a wide receiver who has caught a touchdown pass in conference play and one that hasn’t scored a touchdown in 30 possessions. It’ll be a low-scoring game on Saturday, but I do believe Missouri at least reaches double figures.
Buy or Sell: Jarrett Guarantano starts at quarterback for the Vols.
Nathanael: The only way I think Guarantano doesn’t start is if we see Jauan Jennings take the first snap at quarterback like he did against South Carolina. Otherwise, I think this is JG’s game to start.
Ben: Yes, Jarrett Guarantano will be Tennessee’s starting quarterback on Saturday night. With the way Guarantano has played downed the stretch, he’s proven that he’s the best option at quarterback when he’s playing at his best. As a result, he’ll be the quarterback Jeremy Pruitt turns to as Tennessee looks to become bowl eligible.
Buy or Sell: There will be two red zone touchdowns combined between the two teams.
Nathanael: I’m going to sell this. I think only one red zone touchdown is scored in this game, but I don’t know which team will do it. Missouri’s red zone defense has done a pretty good job of holding teams to field goals. Against Georgia and Florida, the Tigers held those two teams to just two total red zone touchdowns in seven combined attempts. But Missouri’s offense, meanwhile, hasn’t scored a red zone touchdown in three-straight games. The Vols’ offense has done better the last two games of getting touchdowns instead of field goals in the red zone, scoring five “red area” touchdowns in eight attempts. But on the season, they’ve been one of the worst at converting red zone opportunities into touchdowns, only doing so 45.7 percent of the time. Conversely, UT’s red zone defense has allowed teams to score touchdowns 62.2 percent of the time in the red zone, and opponents have scored touchdowns four times in five total red zone trips over the last three games.
This is a real strange battle to watch on Saturday, as neither team’s offense has done great in the red zone, but the defenses have been either okay or good there.
Ben: I’ll buy, though both teams are not good red zone offense teams. Tennessee’s red zone offense ranks 9th (77.1 percent) in the SEC, while Missouri’s ranks second-to-last (68.4 percent) Surely each team can score at least one red zone touchdown each.
Buy or Sell: Both teams throw at least one interception.
Nathanael: I’ll buy this. I think Kelly Bryant for sure gets picked off in this game, and I think Missouri will force Jarrett Guarantano to throw an interception, too. If the Vols do toss a pick in this game, my money is on it happening in the red zone. It feels like almost half of UT’s turnovers this season have happened in the red zone.
Ben: Sell. Kelly Bryant may throw an interception, but I don’t believe Jarrett Guarantano will. Guarantano didn’t take care of the football early in the season, but he has done a fairly good job of doing so down the stretch. He’s only thrown one interception over the last six games after throwing four over the course of the first four games.
Buy or Sell: The Tennessee-Missouri game will be the closest game involving an SEC team this weekend.
Nathanael: Absolutely buying this. This weekend is the “cupcake weekend” across the SEC. There are only three games pitting SEC teams against each other, Tennessee-Missouri is one of them. The other two are LSU-Arkansas (should be an easy blowout) and Georgia-Texas A&M (the Bulldogs should handle business). Every other SEC team is going up against an inferior non-conference opponent, though I wouldn’t just breeze past Vanderbilt taking on ETSU.
Ben: I’ll buy this as well. There just aren’t a lot of good games going on. Arkansas-LSU and Georgia-Texas A&M are the only other games that feature two SEC teams, and Tennessee-Missouri will be closer than both of those games. If the Vols aren’t in the closest game, it’ll be ETSU-Vandy. Maybe even Tennessee-Martin vs, Kentucky.