After last week’s 27-13 defeat in Athens, the Tennessee Vols are headed back to Knoxville for the final home game of the season: Tennessee vs. Missouri. The No.5 Vols will take on the 4-5 Tigers in Neyland Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The Vols last game in Neyland Stadium this year will see the Vols work to bounce back from last week’s loss and will present the Tigers with their toughest obstacle on the road so far this year. This week’s game kicks off at 12:00 PM EST and will be broadcast on CBS.
Tennessee vs. Missouri: Their Seasons So Far
The Vols have been this year’s NCAA Cinderella story, achieving a spot in the top five ranked teams in the nation and an 8-1 record so far. Their lightning fast offense has stumped a number of teams, including LSU and Kentucky, and the Vols stunned the nation when they upset the Florida Gators and then the Alabama Crimson Tide. Their only loss this season came during last week’s matchup in Athens against reigning national champs and No.1 ranked Georgia Bulldogs. For what it’s worth I still don’t think Georgia is that good, but I digress.
The Tigers have been on a different path this season. They are 4-5 after a 21-17 loss to Kentucky snapped the Tigers’ two game winning streak last week. The Tigers had beaten Vanderbilt and won at South Carolina, but Kentucky staged a late comeback and the Tigers gave up a fourth quarter lead and, ultimately, the game. Unfortunate timing considering a contract extension for head coach Eli Drinkwitz had been announced just hours prior to the loss.
In the Tennessee vs. Missouri series, the Vols have won the last three game including a 62-24 win over the Tigers last season.
Related Article: Missouri’s Eli Drinkwitz Shades Vols Amidst NCAA Investigation
Tennessee vs. Missouri: What To Expect
Tennessee will be putting in work to bounce back after last week’s defeat on the road, especially to lock up a win in their final home game this year. This will be the toughest road test of the year for Missouri, from a talent perspective as well as a coaching perspective. Tennessee is a high-scoring team; Missouri is not. Both teams will come ready for battle, but the Tigers will have to be particularly strong defensively if they want to avoid a blow out on Rocky Top.
To stop the Vols will mean stopping the country’s top offense. To do this, the Tigers will have to contain QB Hendon Hooker above all else. Missouri’s pass defense is decent but Hooker is a dual threat quarterback. Though he is more dominant when throwing deep, Hooker can do damage with his legs and, with 21 touchdowns and just two interceptions this season, containing his production is no easy feat.
But, while Hooker may be the face of this offense, he is not the only offensive threat the Tigers will need to stop to keep themselves in the game on Saturday. The Vols have exceptional talent at wide receiver in Cedric Tillman, Bru McCoy, and this season’s breakout player Jalin Hyatt. Hyatt has been especially powerful for Tennessee’s offense this season, especially during Cedric Tillman’s absence, including a staggering five touchdowns in the Tennessee vs. Alabama game alone. This kind of depth at receiver is great for the Vols, providing ample opportunity to throw off the Tigers’ defense and make steady gains for the home team.
Last but not least, running backs Jabari Small and Jaylen Wright have been critical to the success of Tennessee’s offense this season. Small has the second-most touchdowns scored, behind Jalin Hyatt. Small and Wright have 113 carries each this season with Small leading in scores and Wright leading in yards. This duo is a dream team, and the Tigers will have to slow them down to keep Hendon Hooker’s offense at bay on Saturday.
Missouri’s defense isn’t bad. Their offense is decent, albeit inconsistent. But that inconsistency is the key to Tennessee’s victory on Saturday. The Tigers will score some points and make plays, maybe even a couple of big plays. But the 8-1 Vols are still vying for a shot in the playoffs, they are the most explosive offense in the country, and it is their last game in Neyland this season. It may not be a blowout, but expect the Vols to come in hot and leave this one 9-1, with a fourth consecutive win in the Tennessee vs. Missouri series.
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