Joshua Dobbs (6'3, 207, Jr.) -- 162-for-274, 1,896 yards, 13 TD, 5 INT, 19 sacks (6.0 yards/att.); 95 carries, 623 yards (6.6), 7 TD
Quinten Dormady (6'4, 216, Fr.) -- 9-for-14, 129 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 2 sacks (7.6 yards/att.); 7 carries, 22 yards (3.1)
It's been a strange season in Knoxville. That tends to go without saying, I guess. But right now Tennessee ranks 21st in S&P+ and 17th in F/+ ... virtually exactly where I expected the Vols to be at the beginning of the year. Only, thanks to Florida's rise and some ridiculously odd/bad late-game execution, this pretty awesome overall performance has earned Tennessee a record that is one win better than Missouri's.
Don't let the records fool you, though. This is a good team that has, since falling to 2-3 with a loss to Arkansas, raised its game a good amount. Since blowing another lead and losing to Arkansas on October 3, UT is 4-1 with only a late-game loss (and, yes, a blown lead) to Alabama.
I guess you could say Tennessee is good but untrustworthy. You could say the same thing about Josh Dobbs. The Vols currently rank 33rd in both Rushing S&P+ and Passing S&P+, and those numbers describe him pretty accurately. He is a good runner who doesn't run as much as as he probably should (perhaps in part because his backups are true freshmen), and he's a decent passer who can spray the ball a bit at times. He is ... fine. But hey, "fine" might make you the best QB in the SEC East.
I wrote a little bit about Dobbs at Football Outsiders last week.
Josh Dobbs has spent a good portion of this season handcuffed behind the line and looking to pass instead of utilizing his legs. Including sacks, he averaged about nine carries for 29 yards per game in early contests against Bowling Green, Oklahoma, Western Carolina, and Arkansas. But in some of the Vols' better performances of the season -- a narrow loss to Florida, a win over Georgia, and a romp over Kentucky -- he averaged 14 carries and 69 yards.
The more Dobbs runs, the better Tennessee seems to perform on average, but a dire depth chart situation (there are nothing but freshmen behind Dobbs) and perhaps an identity issue at offensive coordinator (Mike Debord has spent much of the last 25 years as either an NFL assistant or part of a pro-style, quarterbacks-as-statues offense at Michigan) have kept him reined in at times.
Dobbs leads an offense that doesn't really have any elite characteristics but doesn't have many clear weaknesses either.
Jalen Hurd (6'4, 240, So.) -- 201 carries, 884 yards (4.4), 10 TD; 23 targets, 15 catches, 158 yards (6.9), 2 TD
Alvin Kamara (5'10, 215, So.) -- 73 carries, 503 yards (6.9), 6 TD; 34 targets, 25 catches, 197 yards (5.8), 3 TD
Dobbs' number one job is putting the ball into the hands of the guy with whom he shares a backfield. Hurd and Kamara are combining for 34 intended touches (carries and targets) per game and are generating 174 yards per game. They're a nice combination: Hurd softens you up, then Kamara goes by you. They aren't one-trait guys -- Hurd's got more speed than you might think considering his size, and Kamara is pretty thick in his own right. Regardless, they are the Tennessee offense.
That's probably good news if you're a Missouri fan. Even with Terry Beckner Jr.'s injury, the Mizzou run defense is better at handling than the run than the pass. (I mean, it's pretty good at both, but you know what I'm saying.) Hurd in particular is a load to take down, but he's not incredibly agile, and if Missouri's defensive line is winning its battle, then he might be having to make moves before he gets out of the backfield.
Mizzou ranks seventh in the country in stuff rate (run stops at or behind the line), and Tennessee's offense ranks 56th. There's potential there for the Tigers, especially if or when Tennessee builds a lead. The Vols have been both predictable and ineffective when attempting to lean on the run to kill clock. And it's kind of like they start trying to kill clock in the second quarter. That approach has backfired a lot this year.
Josh Malone (6'3, 197, So.) -- 44 targets, 27 catches, 353 yards (8.0), 2 TD
Johnathon Johnson (5'8, 184, Sr.) -- 12 targets, 9 catches, 107 yards (8.9)
Von Pearson (6'0, 183, Sr.) -- 37 targets, 26 catches, 309 yards (8.4), 1 TD
Jauan Jennings (6'3, 201, Fr.) -- 19 targets, 13 catches, 142 yards (7.5)
Josh Smith (6'1, 216, So.) -- 33 targets, 19 catches, 257 yards (7.8), 2 TD
Marquez North (6'3, 229, Jr.) -- 13 targets, 5 catches, 46 yards (3.5)
Preston Williams (6'4, 209, Fr.) -- 15 targets, 7 catches, 158 yards (10.5), 2 TD
Ethan Wolf (6'6, 245, So.) -- 28 targets, 20 catches, 271 yards (9.7), 2 TD
Alex Ellis (6'5, 240, Sr.) -- 15 targets, 5 catches, 43 yards (2.9)
It's been a lost season for Marquez North, who was supposed to break through this year but has battled knee and back issues from August to the present. Another former blue-chipper, Josh Malone, has done a solid job as the No. 1 target in the absence of both North and the dismissed Pig Howard, and Dobbs has done a decent job of spreading the ball around -- each of the four starters above has been targeted between 28 and 44 times (each averaging at least 7.8 yards per target, which would basically lead Missouri's receiving corps), and five others have been targeted between 12 and 19 times.
Perhaps the most interesting battle between UT's receivers and Mizzou's defensive backs won't come when the ball is in the air. These receivers are asked to do a lot of blocking, both for running backs and fellow receivers, but Aarion Penton, Kenya Dennis, and company have thrived in fighting off of blocks and getting to the ball-carrier. (Think back to the Georgia game for about 15 examples of that.) If Mizzou gets the edge in this regard, Tennessee's offense could be grounded. If the Tigers don't, however, and ball-carriers are able to get downfield here and there, then at the very least the field position battle could shift drastically in the Vols' favor.
Kyler Kerbyson (6'4, 318, Sr.) -- 23 career starts
Chance Hall (6'4, 318, Fr.)
Dontavius Blair (6'7, 294, Jr.)
Mack Crowder (6'2, 293, Sr.) -- 15 career starts
Jashon Robertson (6'3, 315, So.) -- 20 career starts
Coleman Thomas (6'5, 301, So.) -- 15 career starts
Ray Raulerson (6'4, 287, RSFr.)
Dylan Wiesman (6'4, 304, Jr.) -- 12 career starts
Jack Jones (6'4, 307, Fr.) -- 1 career start
Chance Hall (6'4, 318, Fr.) -- 4 career start
Brett Kendrick (6'6, 318, So.) -- 7 career starts
The offensive line was already regarded as a pretty significant question mark heading into the season, and that was exacerbated by the loss of two-year starter Marcus Jackson to preseason injury. The line has been decent, all things considered -- 48th in Adj. Line Yards, 64th in Adj. Sack Rate -- and as we've learned this year, there are a lot of things in the world worse than "decent."
Still, it appears Mizzou holds the advantage here. The Tigers rank 25th in Adj. Line Yards, and while the sack rate has fallen over the last couple of weeks (MU is now just 49th in Adj. Sack Rate), most of that has been because of standard downs passing. Mizzou still ranks a healthy 22nd in passing downs sack rate. Stuff the run on first down, get after Dobbs on third down.