Each game has certain matchups within it that are oh so very important to the outcome. Matchups so important that they can be the difference in a win and a loss. For every game this season, I’ll be taking a look at the three most important matchups regarding an individual or even between position groups.
Ennis Rakestraw and Kris Abrams-Draine vs Jalin Hyatt
Missouri features two extremely talented corners who play on the outside, and both are having really nice seasons. Abrams-Draine has continued to develop his skills after a breakout 2021 season, and he looks like someone who could be playing on Sundays in the near future. Rakestraw though, after some uneven play and a major knee injury, has been nothing short of wonderful. He’s cut down on his penalties and really had an impact on this defense as well.
Both guys are very good, but they haven’t seen a Jalin Hyatt this year. Hyatt is in the midst of a monster season where he leads the SEC in catches, yards and receiving touchdowns. He’s a huge part of the Tennessee passing game and their offense as a whole.
I’m curious to see the matchup from a “best on best” stand point. We have two guys who are playing as well as anyone in the conference at corner and they’ll be matched up against a guy who is the best receiver in the SEC this year. Who wouldn’t want to see that?
Blake Baker vs Josh Heupel
This is one of the more interesting subplots for the afternoon in Knoxville. Both are good at what they do and both have really good units to coach.
As we know pretty well with Josh Heupel, after that initial first down, you have to be ready for the offense to go up-tempo. I’m interested to see what that against Missouri’s defense and how well Missouri is prepared for it.
Blake Baker has shown some very interesting and exotic blitz packages and they’ve actually done a great job at scheming them up and getting them home. Facing a team that leans on the passing game like Tennessee does, this is also an area to watch. I don’t know that they’ll want to blitz to the same level that they did against Vandy, South Carolina or Kentucky. I don’t know if they can afford to with the talent level of the Tennessee offense. They still can be aggressive, though.
Missouri’s Offensive Line vs Tennessee’s Defense Line
This unit is going to have some faces in new spots after the injury of EJ Ndoma Ogar, but I don’t know how much that will actually matter. This offensive line has had several different combinations, but the result has been pretty much the same. There are segments of passable play, but usually, it’s just plain bad. When things have been passable, it has usually come with the help of extra offensive lineman.
It will be a very loud environment and I’m sure this Tennessee front will want to try and get right after getting beat down by Georgia. So, in addition to raising the overall level of play of the offensive line, they can’t allow their penalties to pile up either. This offensive line has a tendency to make a lot of mistakes and as it’s been mentioned before, the offense as it is constructed presently cannot absorb those things and expect to be successful.