Tennessee is headed to Columbia, Missouri Saturday to face the Tigers in a critical SEC matchup.
Each week, the RTI team will provide game predictions for Tennessee’s weekly opponent.
We move on to Missouri.
Ric Butler: Truth be told, this game is fairly hard to predict. Ultimately you have two SEC East teams, with the same record, who are somewhat similar. Both team’s main strength is certainly their offenses. Missouri will bring in the third-ranked passing offense in the SEC behind the arm of QB Connor Bazelak. Meanwhile, Tennessee has been a force on the ground this year, racking up the fifth-most yards per game on the ground in the SEC. However, at the same time, both teams probably look at their defenses as a liability. Missouri’s defense is, honestly, bad. In fact, the Tigers could be looking at an undefeated start to the season if their defense was even remotely decent. I really believe that this game is going to have a considerable amount of points to it. Missouri’s passing offense really is good, so it will be important for Tennessee to chew up the clock with the rush offense, even with a fast tempo. One of the biggest factors in a game with two solid offenses is turnovers. Offensive possessions will be so valuable this game, considering the expected point total. So a turnover really could create a big turn of momentum for either team. Tennessee has five turnovers in their last two games, so maybe that is an area where they are feeling confident. I think at the end of the day, the question is, can Tennessee’s defense hold back Missouri’s passing attack. One way or another, it will be close. I really am back and forth on this game, because I could see it going either direction. Another thing, real quick, is that Missouri may not have an overly rowdy crowd at 11 a.m. CT, so that could potentially play into Tennessee’s advantage. I’m going to say that either way, this will be a seven-point game or closer in either direction. I dont think either team can blow out the other, considering the defenses at hand. But I do believe Tennessee’s defense is better, so against my better judgment, I’ll say that Heupel will find his first win on the road this Saturday at his old stomping grounds.
Prediction: Tennessee 35, Missouri 31
Ryan Schumpert: Tennessee heads to Missouri looking for its third straight win over the Tigers. With a win, Tennessee would improve to 5-5 against the Tigers in their first decade in the SEC. The Vols and Tigers have a lot in common coming into this game. Both lost disappointing non conferences game in ACC schools and are 0-1 in SEC play entering the contest. There’s a lot of thing I like about Tennessee in this matchup. Missouri’s run defense has been horrific this season, ranking as the worst in the SEC. I also think Tennessee has a chance to win at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the field. Still, I think this is a pretty even matchup. Missouri’s offense has been good this season and it’s hard to imagine Connor Bazelak and the Tigers won’t move the ball well through the air. The one thing I really don’t like for Tennessee is the uncertain status of Hendon Hooker. Hooker was injured in the fourth quarter against Florida and is questionable for Saturday’s game. With a healthy Hooker, it’s hard not to imagine Tennessee’s backfield of Hooker, Jabari Small and Tiyon Evans running very successfully against Missouri’s porous rush defense. Even if Hooker can go, it’s hard to imagine he’ll be 100% and running the ball at the rate he usually does. With Joe Milton playing over Hooker, I like Missouri in the matchup. Overall, I think these teams are very similar. With the game being at Missouri and the Vols’ quarterback situation uncertain, I’m going to take the Tigers.
Prediction: Missouri 37, Tennessee 31