Kentucky and Charlotte can attest: points have been hard to come by against Tennessee lately.
The Volunteers have given up just 10 points combined in their past two games against the Wildcats (7 pts) and 49ers (3 pts), dominating both on the ground and through the air.
Kentucky star running back Benny Snell Jr. mustered up just 81 yards rushing without a score in a loss Saturday, proving Tennessee’s 55th-ranked rush defense (152.7 ypg) is much improved from the beginning of the year.
The Volunteers’ defense prides itself on defending the pass and rushing the passer. They allow under a 60 percent completion percentage to opposing quarterbacks on just 205.1 yards per game (40th in FBS, 6th in SEC). Without tight end Albert Okwuegbunam and wide receiver Nate Brown, Drew Lock could have some trouble getting much going against Tennessee on the road — even with Emanuel Hall healthy this week.
Another reason Lock could struggle Saturday is the Volunteers’ pass rush. Linebacker Darrell Taylor has seven sacks so far this year, racking up a whopping four of them against Kentucky’s mobile quarterback Terry Wilson Jr. Saturday. He’s only gotten sacks one other game, but that came against Georgia where he brought down Jake Fromm thrice.
The success of Missouri’s offense Saturday will rely heavily on the performance of the offensive line. The big boys up front have played well lately, giving Lock a good amount of time in the pocket and creating gaping holes for Damarea Crockett and Larry Rountree III to run through.
Both Lock and the running backs have benefited mightily from the line during Missouri’s two-game win streak. The Tigers’ star quarterback has turned the corner on what’s been a somewhat disappointing season thus far, going 46-for-65 (70.8 percent) for 503 yards and five touchdowns the past two games. In other words, he’s woken up feeling dangerous lately.
Missouri’s running backs are no slouches, either. Crockett has rushed for 114 and 122 yards against Florida and Vanderbilt, averaging nearly 5.5 yards per carry. He’s shown why so many Tiger fans have been so high on him for the past couple years. Rountree has taken advantage of Missouri’s offensive line play lately as well, rushing for 164 yards on 35 carries (4.7 ypc) in the last two games.
So, sure, Tennessee’s defense has been stifling as of late, but Missouri’s offense has been just as hot. It should be fun to watch the two go at it Saturday afternoon.