KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Butch Jones opened his Monday press conference rattling off Missouri’s offensive exploits.
At one point, Tennessee’s coach made the 2016 Tigers sound like 2005 USC or 2010 Auburn.
“They are really explosive. They are averaging 31 points a game,” Jones said.
“They are second in the SEC in total offense. Drew Lock is an NFL quarterback and he can make all of the throws. You can see he is becoming more comfortable with all of their run-pass options. They limit what you are able to do defensively with all of the run-pass options. Along with the RPO’s, they are as talented a group of wide receivers that we have faced the entire year.
“They can run vertical. They can get in and out of their breaks and take a five-yard gain and turn it into a 35-yard gain. They can rush the football, and their offensive front is playing really well. They have only given up 10 sacks, which is No. 1 in the SEC.”
Everything Jones said was true.
Missouri has a good offense. The Tigers are even dynamic at times.
But their explosiveness this season has been all relative.
The Tigers actually average just 19.3 points per game in conference play — third-worst in the SEC. They average 85 fewer yards in conference play, too.
They pile up points and yards against non-conference foes, but they haven’t had nearly the same success in SEC play.
To whit: Lock is tied with Vols quarterback Josh Dobbs with 21 passing touchdowns — the most in the league. But the 6-foot-4, 220-pound sophomore quarterback tossed a combined 10 scores against Eastern Michigan and Delaware St. He has just 8 touchdowns to 8 interceptions in SEC play.
Furthermore, the Tigers are terrible in the red zone, ranking No. 122 nationally in efficiency.
Having said all that, the Vols could still find themselves in trouble Saturday considering their defense’s propensity to allow chunk plays.
Kentucky rolled up more than 600 yards in a loss last weekend, and the Tigers pose a challenge with their unique run-pass offense.
“They’re a very, very good offense,” defensive coordinator Bob Shoop said.
“What Missouri does different than most is their RPOs aren’t bubbles or screens. They’re down the field passes. Lock does a great job getting ball off. They’ve given up only a few sacks this year. It’s really important we have AFQs. Which are ‘affect the quarterbacks.’”
Tennessee did a great job with Missouri’s tempo and RPO-offense last season, holding Lock to just 135 yards passing on 30 attempts and allowing just 3.0 yards per rush.