Tennessee did lose to Georgia. The Vols’ dream of an unbeaten season came to an end.
By Matt Zemek
The loss was undeniably disappointing, and it also reduces the margin for error with this team over the next few weeks. However, Tennessee is widely seen as a favorite to make the College Football Playoff in spite of that loss Between the Hedges. LSU helped the Vols in a very big way by taking down Alabama. The Crimson Tide are out of the hunt for a playoff berth in the SEC, which elevates Tennessee’s position. The Vols also got a big assist from Notre Dame, which dealt Clemson its first loss of the year. Given the other dynamics of the College Football Playoff race, which include the reality that either Ohio State or Michigan will lose at least once (when they play each other), Tennessee has a clear path to the playoff as long as it wins out. It’s time to handle business in the SEC East and collect that playoff ticket one month from now.
Let’s look at what the Vols need to do against Missouri:
1 – Offensive line against Mizzou’s defensive line
The Tennessee offensive line got an education from the Georgia defensive front. That game in Athens should serve as excellent preparation for a very good Missouri defensive front. If you have followed Missouri this season in the SEC, you know this is a legitimately good defense. Georgia scored only two touchdowns against this group, failing to post 30 points versus the Tigers. This is not an easy assignment for the Vols up front, but it is a more manageable assignment than Georgia. Every Big Orange lineman needs to be personally angry about his performance against Georgia and get things straightened out versus Mizzou. It’s time to bounce back and make a statement for the big uglies.
2 – No crisis of confidence
The Vols and their offense were shut down against Georgia, but that’s no cause for alarm. Georgia, in case you haven’t noticed, is in position to win back-to-back national championships. Those guys are really good. There’s absolutely no reason for any Vol offensive starter to doubt himself or question the work and preparation being devoted to each week’s game. The Vols should feel great about their situation and great about their offensive capabilities. Get back on the bike, put in the work, prepare for this game, and expect to play well. That’s more than half the battle against Missouri.
3 – Shut off the big play
The Tennessee defense allowed some big pass plays to Georgia in the first half before the Dawgs largely sat on their lead and played ball control in the second half. Tennessee’s secondary needs to make sure Missouri doesn’t hit a home-run ball for a quick, easy touchdown and an early lead. The Vols need to get on top of this game. The defense plays a central role in that process.