A pair of SEC teams with even records face off on Saturday in Columbia as the 2-2 Missouri Tigers host the 2-2 Tennessee Volunteers. Here are the three keys to a Vol win.
By Steve Wright
1 – Quarterback health
Whether it is Hendon Hooker – questionable after being knocked out of the Florida game – or Joe Milton, one of the Vols quarterbacks needs to be healthy here. The one aspect of the Mizzou D that is working is the pass rush. The Tigers are averaging over three sacks a game – impressive given the run-heavy teams they have faced – and they play against a Tennessee squad that has no idea how to protect the quarterback. The way to change this is to keep Hooker mobile if he can play or get Milton to release the ball quicker as his lack of mobility is a serious issue against this pass rush.
2 – Take something away
Tyler Badie is one of the best running backs in the entire SEC and he is good enough to win games for the Tigers on his own. He doesn’t have to, however, as Mizzou has an intermediate passing attack behind quarterback Connor Bazelak that is the 12th best through the air in the country. . There are no elite receivers to guard – seven players have over 100 yards receiving and none have over 200 – so the Vols defense will have to win one-on-one matchups throughout the game to take Bazelak’s targets away.
3 – Run the ball
Mizzou has no ability to stop the run. FCS school SE Missouri State went for almost 300 yards against them on the ground and the three FBS schools they have faced ran over them too. Jabari Small and Tiyon Evans combined to rush for over 200 yards last week against Bowling Green and giving both a heavy workload would seem appropriate here. The Tigers are one of only four teams that allow over six yards per carry on the ground and until they figure out how to stop the run it should be all the Vols do on offense.