The Rocky Top Insider team makes their picks for No. 16 Tennessee’s matchup with the Missouri Tigers this Saturday. Managing editor Ben McKee, as well as RTI contributors Blake Von Hagen and Noah Taylor share their predictions for the Vols’ first game of 2020.
This matchup is so intriguing because we don’t know what to expect from Missouri since it began the season facing No. 2 Alabama.
Offensively for Tennessee, it should have no problem running the football. Especially now that Cade Mays is in the starting lineup. Missouri linebacker Nick Bolton is one of the best running backs in the country, but the rest of the Tigers’ front seven doesn’t play to his level. The defensive line for Mizzou is a weakness and should be overpowered by Tennessee’s offensive line. Even if Jarrett Guarantano doesn’t play his best game, as long as he doesn’t turn the football over, Jim Chaney can lean on the rushing attack and still pick up a win.
Defensively, it’ll be critical Tennessee plays smart, fundamental football. Eli Drinkwitz is going to do his best to confuse the Vols with motion and misdirection, so it’s crucial that they play with good football IQ. Missouri’s offensive line shouldn’t present any problems, though the Vols will have to key in on keeping Shawn Robinson in the pocket. Tennessee’s secondary should win its matchup as well, especially with Jaylen McCollough back at safety which allows Bryce Thompson to move back to corner.
Tennessee has more talent, has more depth and has the better coaching staff. The Vols should have no problem winning this as long as they don’t beat themselves.
Pick: Tennessee, 28-17
MVP: Tennessee RB Ty Chandler
I was extremely impressed with Chandler’s performance against South Carolina last Saturday. You could already see the benefits of working with Jay Graham. Chandler will have a big game running behind Tennessee’s offensive line.
The addition of Cade Mays on the offensive line is going to make Tennessee too much for Missouri to handle down the stretch.
Pick: Tennessee, 30-20
MVP: Tennessee RB Ty Chandler
Chandler was one of the most impressive players in the Week 1 win against South Carolina. He will have fun running behind an even better offensive line this week in the first home game of the season. The Vols will feed him and Gray early and often on Saturday.
Last week against Alabama, the Missouri defense gave up more than 300 yards through the air, 134 of which went to Jaylen Waddle while Devonta Smith had 89 more.
While Tennessee’s receiving game may not be that caliber, Josh Palmer and Brandon Johnson showed little drop off at receiver in the Vols 31-27 win at South Carolina. Jarrett Guarantano, at times, looked comfortable throwing the ball and both receivers came up with some big catches. USC transfer Velus Jones Jr. didn’t show a lot of threat downfield, but proved to be a versatile player that I think we will see more of this week.
If Guarantano can find consistency getting the ball to his receivers, Tennessee’s passing attack could be a factor. But, I also like the run game to take off, especially with the addition of Cade Mays to an already big offensive line and the fact that Ty Chandler and Eric Gray showed how solid the Vols ground game could be against South Carolina.
I expect Missouri to find ways to keep it close, but I think the Vols pull away to win by multiple scores.
Pick: Tennessee, 31-17
MVP: Tennessee RB Eric Gray