Last week, Vanderbilt put up big yards against what was a top-5 running defense, racking up 465 yards of total offense with 182 rushing yards from Ke’Shaun Vaughn. The Commodores exploited an aggressive Mizzou defense that sold out to stop the run, but fell prey to play action and different movement in the backfield. Now whether this was an aberration for a defense that could not adjust to a different offensive philosophy or the sign of offenses adjusting to Walters and Odom’s D is yet to be seen. But you can expect Tennessee to try to follow the game plan.
The Volunteers are the third straight team the Tigers face that do not have a great quarterback. Led by Jarrett Guarantano, the Volunteers average only 340.9 yards of total offense. This is last in the SEC. The Volunteer running game is led by Tim Jordan and Ty Chandler, but neither have 500 rushing yards this season. Both are dual threats though, with several hundred combined receiving yards. Guarantano has several weapons he likes to utilize out wide, throwing to Marquez Callaway, Jauan Jennings, and Josh Palmer.
Defensively, the Volunteers allow 358.6 yards per game. Daniel Bituli leads the team with 65 total tackles while Darrell Taylor leads the team with 7 sacks. In the secondary, Bryce Thompson and Marquill Osborne have a combined 5 interceptions.
As with every game this season, does any of this matter against the Tigers? Time and time again, the Mizzou defense has turned average quarterbacks into SEC player of the week contenders and allowed WRs and backs to get deep into the secondary. Late in games, the bend but don’t break approach lost the Kentucky game and almost lost the Vanderbilt game. Will Walters and Odom’s defense continue this tendency against the Volunteers?
The Tigers have a 4-2 record against the Vols since Mizzou entered the SEC and they should continue their winning ways this week. Listening to the Tigers players, I would like to think they do not want to settle for bowl eligibility only. They want to get to 8 or 9 wins and play in a decent bowl. To do this, Mizzou will have to fix some of the deficiencies that once again showed up against Vandy. The offense will have to get off to a faster start than last week and Drew Lock will need to ensure he does not throw careless interceptions. The defense will need to balance their aggression with discipline to ensure they are not susceptible to the same big plays on the ground that they gave up against Vanderbilt.
Nothing is better than beating Tennessee and reading angry tweets from their fans, complaining about their terrible coaching and how bad it is to lose to a program as lowly as Mizzou. I expect this trend to continue as the Tigers should take care of business and keep their drive for 8 regular season wins alive.