WELCOME TO MIZZOU FOOTBALL SATURDAY
In Missouri’s ongoing transition to a basketball school, we’ve seem to forgotten that the Tigers have a home football game this weekend. They’ve became pretty fun to watch, too!
Tennessee visits town during Missouri’s Senior Day, with the potential that a win from the Tigers would be rumored to be the final nail in the coffin for the much-scrutinized tenure of Vols coach Butch Jones.
Having lost four out of their last five, while not winning against a Power 5 conference team since week one (Georgia Tech), Tennessee is in a fragile state at the moment. If Drew Lock and Co. can pass the test of Tennessee’s defense (ranked 40th in S&P+) and force the Vols into a shootout, it’s unlikely an anemic Tennessee offense (120th in S&P+) will be able to keep up.
Four down, two to go, three left.
WHO ARE WE PLAYING?: Tennessee (4-5)
WHEN'S KICKOFF?: 6:30 p.m. CT
WHERE'S IT AT?: Faurot Field (71,168)
WHAT DOES VEGAS SAY?: Missouri -12.5
WHAT DOES S&P+ SAY?: Missouri by 10
WHERE TO WATCH/LISTEN:
TV: SEC Network
RADIO: TIGER NETWORK (Mike Kelly, Howard Richards, Mike Gervino)
Television: SEC Network - Channel Finder
Radio: Tiger Radio Network // Sirius/XM -119/199
Facebook: Mizzou Football
Live Stats: StatBroadcast
BILL AND TASHAN SET THE TABLE
Bill: Okay, we’re going to start this one off with a completely different tone than, say, the Georgia preview a few weeks ago.
Then, we crafted the Mizzou dream scenario, all the things that had to happen for the Tigers to somehow upset the Dawgs. (Didn’t happen.) Now, Mizzou’s attempting to win its fourth game in a row against a team that’s lost five of six. What’s the Mizzou nightmare scenario? What are the plot twists Mizzou needs to most avoid tonight at Faurot?
Tashan: Besides a garbage-time score, Missouri’s defense was excellent in the red zone last week against Florida’s offense; they forced two field goals on the Gators’ three attempts. We’re usually saying that the other way around. For the year, the defense has allowed an abysmal 33 scores on 35 attempts by opponents in the red zone, with 23 of those being touchdowns. It was nice to see the change, but a return to form could spell trouble for the Tigers.
A low-scoring affair is just the thing they need to avoid, and having to settle for field goals on productive drives is a quick way to find yourself in that situation. The slower the pace and less points scored, the greater the chance is that Tennessee upsets (still feels weird saying that) Missouri on senior night.
Bill: UT has easily the best pass defense since Georgia. Drew Lock appears to be doing a better job of working through his reads and finding options that aren’t just “bubble screen” or “guy running the go route.” This has looked like a complete passing game, but Bob Shoop’s a pretty crafty defensive coordinator, and as we saw on Missouri’s first drive last week (with the end zone interception), mistakes are still possible.
Is there any particular kind of mistake you think Mizzou might still be prone to making in the passing game? Lock getting baited into certain passes (a la South Carolina and Purdue)? Miscommunication? Law of averages saying he’s probably due another couple of picks?
Tashan: The Tigers forget they started the year 1-5 and enter the game way too big-headed for a sub-500 team. Yes, Odom and his players have been saying the right things all week long, but you have to think that winning three-straight and smacking Florida last week has them just a bit overconfident.
Throw in the fact that Tennessee has looked pretty incompetent, and you have the perfect trap game. Make no mistakes, this Missouri team isn’t good enough to let its guard down against anybody. We saw that to start the year in the FCS scare against Missouri State. Mizzou better not sleep on the Vols, or it could be setting itself up for a rude awakening.
Bill: Josh Heupel went reverse-psychology on Florida last week. The Gators were pretty decent in run defense (against teams not named Georgia, anyway) but had shown potential glitches in pass defense ... and Missouri came out running the ball and attacking UF’s supposed strengths.
I’m curious what that means for this week. Does Mizzou attempt to establish the run, as most offenses do against Tennessee, or is Heupel so confident at this point that he does what he did last week and attack Tennessee’s strength, pass defense? Does Mizzou come out trying to break down the biggest wall first, or do the Tigers stick to the ground game. We’ll find out just how cocky Heupel is feeling.
Alright, predictions time.
Tashan: Mizzou should beat this Tennessee team, plain and simple. The Volunteers have looked terrible outside of a 24-10 win over Southern Mississippi last week.
I see the Tigers winning big, around the ballpark of 41-21. “Milly Rock” Drew Lock keeps the hot hand, and Missouri rolls over the Vols with a balanced attack. Larry Rountree III is bound to truck at least one (or two ... or three) Tennessee defenders, and Ish Witter keeps up his solid play in his final home game. The defense continues to improve, but Anthony Sherrils and the secondary make a few more blunders than they did last week.
Bill: I am increasingly confident, but I never mess with a good thing. I will remain pessimistic in my predictions for as long as it continues to work. Tennessee still has John Kelly on offense and a sound aerial defense system. The Vols are good on special teams, too.
They are likely a better team than they’ve shown for about the last six weeks, and Missouri’s defense isn’t exactly in the clear from danger yet. My numbers say Mizzou by 10.1 with 72 percent win probability, and while that sounds pretty realistic, something like a 28-21 Tennessee win is, too.