KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee is on a mission to play in its fourth consecutive bowl game, but to do so the Vols will need to win two of their final three games this season.
The next opportunity comes this week at Missouri, where Tennessee faces a Tigers’ team that has won three games in a row and is favored by 10 points.
SEC Country reporters Mike Griffith and Blake Morgan have identified three keys for what could be a pivotal victory.
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The Vols have several players dealing with injuries, so the Next Man Up mantra is in full effect. Tennessee redshirt freshman QB Jarrett Guarantano has the most notable injury, having left last Saturday’s 24-10 win over Southern Miss at halftime with a right ankle injury.
True freshman QB Will McBride saw his first action of the season and didn’t seem overwhelmed by the moment. Regardless of who is under center at Missouri, the Vols will need to continue playing sound football if they are to pull off the upset.
1. Win special teams
The Vols have one of the top punters in the nation in senior Trevor Daniel, who’s coming off a game that saw him have six kicks of 50 yards or more and bury two inside the opponent’s 10-yard line. Special teams is usually a game of hidden yardage, and Tennessee needs to cash in with good returns and solid coverage.
2. Run the ball effectively
The Vols are missing at least two top receivers, and it could be three if sophomore Marquez Callaway is unable to return from an ankle injury. At the running back position, junior John Kelly and freshman Ty Chandler have represented the most consistent and explosive offensive threats. A good run game will also take time off the clock and keep Missouri’s dangerous offense, which has scored 165 points in its past three games, on the sideline.
3. Win turnover margin
The Vols have quietly gone plus-7 in the turnover margin department, getting 8 takeaways in the past three games while committing just one. Missouri ranks last in the SEC in turnover margin, and winning the turnover battle would give Tennessee a clear advantage.
Series history: Tennessee is 2-3 all-time against Missouri
|2016||Vols 63, Missouri 37||Knoxville|
|2015||Vols 19, Missouri 8||Columbia|
|2014||No. 19 Missouri 29, Vols 21||Knoxville|
|2013||No. 10 Missouri 31, Vols 3||Columbia|
|2012||Missouri 51, Vols 48||Knoxville|