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 Mizzou win.
By Steve Wright
1 – Defense has to be better
The Mizzou offense has done enough to win a pair of games have the Tigers at 2-2 but the defense has been wretched. The unit is last in the SEC in total defense and almost gave up 300 yards rushing against FCS foe SE Missouri State along with being blasted by the three FBS it has faced. Third downs have been a disaster – SEMI and Central Michigan each converted 45% of their chances – and this constant allowing of drives to be sustained is hurting the Tigers’ attempt to control tempo. Third down must be the focus, but the defense as a whole just needs to be better.
2 – Get to the quarterback
Whether it is Hendon Hooker – questionable after being knocked out of the Florida game – or Joe Milton, 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 Vols are No. 11 in the country in terms of fewest sacks allowed – over three a game – so there will be chances for drive-ending plays here.
3 – Keep the Vols guessing
One of the ways that Mizzou has won games is by keeping the opposition guessing. The Tigers are 12th in the nation in passing offense averaging almost 325 yards per game and they do it with an intermediate passing game that keeps the chains moving. There are no elite receivers to guard – seven players have over 100 yards receiving and none have over 200 – and this means that quarterback Connor Bazelak is doing a great job of identifying matchups his teammates can win. Mizzou wins here by keeping that balance – along with the rushing attack – alive.