Game Day Preview: What you need to know about Tennessee-Missouri
It may not be a game that draws national appeal, but Saturday’s clash between Tennessee and Missouri means plenty to both teams.
The Vols are looking to bury early disappointments with a winning streak to close out the season. Tennessee, winner of three straight games, is a 7-point favorite to beat Missouri and should be a heavy favorite to beat Vanderbilt at home next week.
Missouri has had a tumultuous season. Former starting quarterback Maty Mauk was suspended, reinstated and then again suspended for the remainder of the season. Players boycotted practice in conjunction with a protest that forced the school president to resign. Then, coach Gary Pinkel announced he would resign because of his ongoing battle with lymphoma.
Still, both teams can salvage the season. Tennessee can post its best regular season record since 2007. Missouri can become bowl eligible with just one more win.
Tennessee Volunteers (6-4, 3-3) at Missouri Tigers (5-5, 1-5)
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 21, 7:15 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Weather: 30 degrees, clear (Weather.com)
Line: Tennessee -7
By the numbers
0 – The number of wins Tennessee has over Missouri. The Vols are 0-for-3 since the Tigers joined the SEC in 2012.
11 – The number of overtime wins Tennessee and Missouri have had. The Vols and Tigers are tied for the most overtime victories in NCAA FBS history. Both teams are 11-5 in overtime games. The first meeting between the teams went to overtime with Missouri winning 51-48 in 2012.
28 – The deficit in Tennessee’s last loss at Faurot Field. The Vols lost 31-3 in 2013. It was junior quarterback Joshua Dobbs’ first start. He threw for 240 yards and ran for 45.
Storylines to watch
Can Missouri’s defensive front take over?
Missouri is No. 8 in the nation in total defense and No. 3 in the SEC. The Tigers’ defense ranks No. 4 in the SEC in sacks with 26. Tennessee’s offensive line has been decimated by injuries this season. The Vols hope to get some injured linemen back this week. Nevertheless, they’ll be challenged on Saturday.
Will Missouri challenge Tennessee’s special teams?
The Vols have been explosive on both kickoff and punt returns. However, South Carolina and North Texas have found ways to limit the Vols’ big plays on special teams with directional kicks. It’s probably worth giving up field position to limit big plays. However, one errant kick could be trouble for Mizzou.
How will the cold weather affect the game?
Missouri must be much more accustomed to cold weather than Tennessee. Knoxville residents have enjoyed an unseasonably warm November. Tennessee coach Butch Jones said he hoped for cold weather this week so the Vols could get accustomed to lower temperatures. That didn’t happen.
Which Joshua Dobbs will show up?
Tennessee’s quarterback has garnered national awards and been criticized by his own fans all in the same season. Jones has denied reports that Dobbs isn’t healthy. Still, the junior hasn’t been the same explosive threat on the ground that he was earlier in the season. Dobbs’ passing accuracy is still hit-or-miss. That means he needs to make some plays on the ground to make the Tennessee offense more productive.
Prediction: Tennessee 17, Missouri 13
Missouri’s defense will be a tough test for Tennessee. However, Missouri’s offense will make things tough on themselves if recent history is any indication. The Vols should have just enough productivity to upend the Tigers, but it will be a battle to the end.