The Missouri Tigers play Arkansas in the final week of the season, so they know they won’t have a losing season.
By Matt Zemek
This game against Tennessee on Saturday will likely be the difference between a 6-6 season and a 7-5 campaign. That certainly matters for perception and the way the Tigers head into the 2020 campaign. A very simple reality is attached to this game, which will be explained below. This forms the foundation of what Missouri must achieve against the Vols.
1 – Punch Tennessee in the teeth
The simple reality attached to this game is that Missouri has had to go through the toughest part of its SEC schedule in recent weeks, playing Georgia and Florida and watching its offense get buried in both games. After being kicked around by the Dawgs and Gators, Missouri now arrives at the last two games on its schedule, games which ought to be wins under nearly any circumstances. You can look at this game in many different ways from many vantage points, but the most central point of focus in this contest is simply that after Mizzou got roughed up by opponents which are plainly more physical and imposing, the Tigers need to engage in role reversal and be the team which kicks the snot out of the Vols. Missouri needs to be sick and tired of being sick and tired. The Tigers need to be cranky and ornery and nasty. They need to unload on the Vols and take back their season. A little anger, a lot of enthusiasm, and a commitment to finishing blocks and tackles must define this game for Missouri. Everything else is secondary if we’re being brutally honest.
2 – Disguise coverages
The tactical component Missouri has to master in this game is its disguise of coverages against Tennessee’s passing games. There has been a revolving door at quarterback for Tennessee this season. The Vols have not been able to settle on an established No. 1 quarterback. The Vols’ coaches have been frustrated with quarterbacks not making plays when they are available to be made. Tennessee’s quarterbacks have been impatient throwing into coverages and have not recognized what the defenses are doing. If Missouri can spot relevant tendencies on film and make in-game adjustments plus pre-snap movements which reshape the look of the defense, the Tigers can grab multiple interceptions and give their struggling offense some short fields to work with… or also a pick-six to reduce the offense’s scoreboard burden.
3 – Playing for Barry Odom
Missouri’s players might enjoy playing for Barry Odom, but being happy to play for a coach is not the same as playing hard for a coach in a moment of importance. If Missouri’s players do value playing for Odom, they will show it with their level of play. Talk is cheap, action matters a lot more. The Tigers, up and down their roster, need to manifest this reality on Saturday.