The Tennessee Vols are heavy home favorites (some early lines have UT at -13) in their upcoming matchup against the Missouri Tigers (12 PM ET on Saturday), but that doesn’t mean the game is an automatic win for UT.
Every game in the SEC is tough. And the game against Missouri won’t be any different.
While I think the Vols should probably walk out of Neyland with a win on Saturday, there are a couple of things Tennessee can do to ensure a victory.
The first, and most important thing, is to commit to the run.
Tennessee rushed for 133 yards against a Will Muschmap-led South Carolina defense.
That’s a pretty good day. But it could’ve been better. Running backs Ty Chandler and Eric Gray combined to average five yards per rush. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, however, went away from the run at times. Chaney did a great job of scheming wide receivers open, but Jarrett Guarantano’s accuracy issues prevented several big plays from happening.
Chaney obviously needs to continue to scheme wide receivers open, but I think he needs to rely a bit more on the run game, too. The Vols should be able to run all over Missouri on Saturday afternoon. I’d advocate taking the ball out of JG’s hands as much as possible and seeing what kind of damage can be done on the ground with Chandler and Gray.
The other thing Tennessee needs to do against the Tigers is to figure out a way to defend the short, intermediate passing game.
Jeremy Pruitt’s squad struggled against the Gamecocks with slant routes and short crossing routes.
Missouri is going to attack the Vols the same way.
Tigers quarterback Shawn Robinson didn’t throw the ball down the field very much against Alabama in Missouri’s season-opening loss to the Crimson Tide. Most of his passes were close to the line of scrimmage. But they went for moderate gains against a tough Nick Saban defense — the Tigers picked up 20 first downs on Saturday (by comparison, South Carolina picked up 22 first downs against Tennessee).
I could see those short routes being a problem once again for Tennessee. Since Missouri doesn’t throw the ball down the field very much (they don’t have a Shi Smith), the Vols need to focus on keeping the play in front of them.
I’m sure this is an adjustment the Volunteers will make this week.
And I’m confident that if UT commits to the run game and figures out a way to stop those pesky short/intermediate routes, they’ll earn a big win against Missouri and get off to a 2-0 start.
Featured image via Tennessee Athletic Communications