The Tennessee Volunteers (5-5) take on another SEC team one win from bowl eligibility on Saturday when they visit the Missouri Tigers (5-5).
Here are the three keys:
Outstanding linebacker play
The inside linebacker duo of Daniel Butuli and Henry To’o To’o have to be big in this one. The Missouri offense has been all over Tennessee in recent games, but with Drew Lock out of the picture the attack has been stuttering – badly – of late. Clemson transfer Kelly Bryant was lighting teams up early, but the Tigers have scored just 27 points total over their last four games. The offense isn’t working like it should do and the running game has been struggling for explosive plays despite Bryant’s ability as a running quarterback.
If the two inside linebackers in particular – and the rest of the defense in general – are able to keep Mizzou at the level they have been over the last month then this is a game that can be won.
Jarrett Guarantano is still nursing a broken bone in his non-throwing hand. That – plus the fact that for some reason the projected starter seems better coming off of the bench – means that maybe true freshman Brian Maurer gets the start again here. Honestly, there seems to be very little rhyme or reason to what Tennessee is doing at the quarterback spot, but as long as the wins keep coming then no one is going to care in Knoxville.
Special teams play
This has the feel of a low scoring game where the first to 20+ points will win the game. Mizzou has forgotten how to score, while the Vols are winning games without blowing teams off of the field. In a game like this field position will be key, so the punting and returning game needs to be strong to give the Tennessee offense a platform to work from. There also need to be no mistakes in the kicking game as a couple of missed field goals in either direction will impact the outcome.