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Tennessee Volunteers Offensive Preview

Let’s take a look at the newest team to be shut down for three quarters and then take advantage of a worn out Missouri defense!

NCAA Football: Tennessee at Kentucky
GOOD BOY WATCHING FOOTBALL
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

I think we know how Missouri games are going to be played out by this point, so I hope we’re all on board with the fact that this is not going to be a good game. Missouri is a 5.5 point favorite, yes, but it’s two Top 25 defenses going against two offenses ranked in the 80s. Points will be at a premium, it’ll be a field position game, and the first defense to break loses. For the past four games that’s been Missouri. Tough to see that going any other way but let’s at least take a look to see how the Tiger defense will be shutting down the Volunteer offense for at least three quarters.

NCAA Football: Tennessee at Kentucky
Jarrett Guarantano
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback

Jarrett Guarantano - JR: 105-169 (62.1%)/1,402 yards/13 TDs/5 INTs/7.3 ypa

Brian Maurer - FR: 34-71 (47.9%)/524 yards/2 TDs/5 INTs/6.5 ypa

NCAA Football: Alabama-Birmingham at Tennessee
Ty Chandler
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Running Back

Ty Chandler - JR: 118 rushes/597 yards/5.1 ypc/3 TDs/4.96 HLT/47.5% OPP/39% success

Tim Jordan - JR: 77 rushes/310 yards/4.0 ypc/1 TD/3.39 HLT/45.5% OPP/40.3% success

NCAA Football: Tennessee at Kentucky
Marquez Callaway
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Wide Receiver

Marquez Callaway - SR: 39 targets/22 catches (55%)/487 yards/5 TDs/12.5 ypt

Cedric Tillman - FR: 7 targets/4 catches (57.1%)/60 yards/1 TD/8.6 ypt

Wide Receiver

Josh Palmer - JR: 40 targets/22 catches (55%)/265 yards/1 TD/6.6 ypt

Ramel Keyton - FR: 8 targets/2 catches (25%)/44 yards/0 TDs/5.5 ypt

Wide Receiver

Jauan Jennings - SR: 69 targets/50 catches (72.5%)/771 yards/7 TDs/1.2 ypt

Tyler Byrd - SR: 7 targets/4 catches (57.1%)/61 yards/1 TD/8.7 ypt

Tight End

Dominick Wood-Anderson - SR: 26 targets/14 catches (53.8%)/197 yards/0 TDs/7.6 ypt

Austin Pope - JR: 8 targets/4 catches (50%)/21 yards/0 TDs/2.6 ypt

NCAA Football: Mississippi State at Tennessee
Brandon Kennedy
Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

Left Tackle

Wanya Morris - FR

Jahmir Johnson - R-JR

Left Guard

Trey Smith - JR

Chris Akporoghene - FR

Center

Brandon Kennedy - R-SR

Ryan Johnson - R-JR

Right Guard

Jerome Carvin - SO

Riley Locklear - JR

Right Tackle

Darnell Wright - FR

Marcus Tatum - R-JR

Tennessee has been rotating three quarterbacks throughout the year, all to various levels of success, so the Tigers might be facing the experienced, statue-esque Guarantano or the more mobile (oh god no) Brian Maurer. Despite their skill sets, I’d prefer the less accurate, more turnover-prone Maurer, but I’m sure we’ll see glimpses of both. Regardless, the offense is only slightly better than the Tigers, so they’re easy to shut down. Here’s how.

The Passing Game

The Volunteers have one of the worst rushing attacks in the country: 103rd overall, 109th in success rate, 109th in efficiency, 120th in explosiveness, 94th in stuff rate. So, just like Florida, the Volunteers have skewed more and more to predictability and passing frequently on early downs before using the run in got-to-get-it short yardage situations. Therefore, the Missouri secondary will have to be prepared for more of the short stuff, except this time they’ll be faced with a legitimate high-volume explosive pass catcher in Jauan Jennings. With a 72% catch rate and 11.2 yards per target, he is reliable and the one true threat that Tennessee has. Josh Palmer and Marquez Callaway, the other two starters, each have a catch rate over 55% so they’re no slouches either, but Jennings is the biggest threat. If you can shut him down (best case scenario) or limit the production of the other receivers (more likely), that 24th best passing offense with the 28th best explosiveness can be kept in check. The Volunteers are also 64th in sack rate, so expect a few more Elliott/Whiteside take downs as well (because we know our defensive ends aren’t going to do it, hahahahaha... aw, I’m sad).

Passing Downs

It’s a good thing Tennessee is 22nd in passing downs because they get a lot of game time practice at them. Tennessee is basically a poor man’s Florida in that they pass a lot, can’t run, struggle in standard downs, and are lukewarm in third downs. It’ll be super important for the Tigers to feast on standard downs (i.e. tackles for loss) because, for reasons unknown, both quarterbacks are magic in long-distance situations. They go from 92nd in standard downs to 22nd in passing downs, 108th in standard downs success rate to 57th in passing downs success rate, and 105th in SD efficiency to 37th in PDs. That’s....that’s not how it’s supposed to work! Corralling Jennings will help but also just making sure the explosive play doesn’t hit (45th in PD explosiveness).

Third Downs

28th in third-and-long, 95th (!) in third-and medium, 38th in third-and-short. Again, this fits the profile of a passing offense that hits big plays and long-yardage situations. Missouri did an excellent job of holding Florida to a single third down conversion in the first half and they’re going to need that same sort of performance against Tennessee to give the team any hope of a win. If the Volunteers are shuffling through 1st and 2nd down but hitting big on 3rd, it’s going to be another long day for the Tiger defense.

Conclusion

Hold on for four quarters. The Missouri defense has been excellent at winning halves of games, but can never go the distance. That is not their fault, mind you, but the key to a Missouri win is to hold the opponent under ten points OR score a touchdown (or two!) themselves. If they don’t do that, it doesn’t matter, because there’s no way this Missouri offense, as it is currently constructed, will consistently move the ball on the Tennessee defense. Good luck, Ryan Walters!