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Dawg Preview: #16 Missouri Tigers Face Next Tough Test as #14 Tennessee Vols Come to Columbia

The #16 Missouri Tigers road to the SEC championship/a New Year's Six Bowl doesn't get any easier, as they face another 7-2 squad that looks to also stay in contention for both an SEC and a NY6 berth in #14 Tennessee. The Tigers will be back at Faurot though, which is surely relieving after having to travel to Athens to take on the defending national champions #1 Georgia, and also came away from the matchup with a lot to build on. The Volunteers, coming off a trouncing of lowly UConn 59-3, will be coming in loaded for bear, but are they prepared enough to take on a much stronger challenge? Let's take a look.

Broadcast Info:

Date: Saturday, November 11th, 2023

Time: 3:30 EST

Location: Faurot Field, Columbia, Missouri


Calling: Brad Nessler, Gary Danielson, Jenny Dell

Radio: KTGR 1580 AM (Missouri) WJJM-FM VOL Network (Tennessee)

Betting Line

Tennessee -2.0

Over/Under: 57.5

Tale of the Tape: Missouri Tigers

Missouri played Georgia well, all things considered, but they were never going to win and many who watched the game could tell you that. With too many mistakes, Brady Cook's confidence was shaky, and perhaps the biggest loss of the day, losing star receiver Luther Burden III. Burden is questionable for Saturday's matchup, head coach Eli Drinkwitz last updated that he won't know the status of Burden until Friday, stating "That is the first time I'll have a real feel on whether or not he's going to be able to play or not" per On3's Andrew Graham. That being said, the Missouri offense still has firepower in the passing game. Receivers Theo Wease Jr. and Mekhi Miller will have to step up if Burden is out for this contest. Missouri's run game though is highly overlooked, Cody Schrader ran for 112 yards and a touchdown against Georgia's stout front and has been a huge piece to this Missouri offense's success. Tennessee has a stout front as well though, anchored by James Pearce Jr., Tyler Baron, and Aaron Beasley. This feels like a game Missouri should let it fly, the Tennessee secondary isn't nearly as potent as Georgia's, but with Burden potentially out they may rely on their run game more.

The Missouri defense will have to deal with Tennessee's offensive attack, a much stronger unit than the one they faced a week ago. The Volunteers have two running backs that can absolutely torch you in the air and on the ground in Jaylen Wright and Dylan Sampson, as well as a running quarterback in Joe Milton. However, the Tigers have a front seven that has bullied basically every offensive line they've faced this year. Getting in the backfield and disrupting that production will be imperative to winning this. Force Joe Milton to throw bad balls downfield, where he's had some (not many, but some) accuracy issues and could be forced into mistakes. That's what Missouri will need to do to bog down this explosive attack, while they have one of their own this feels like who has the ball last and who can force the most mistakes will win. They can't depend solely on the offense for this win, they have to stuff the run as much as possible and fluster Joe Milton.

Tale of the Tape: Tennessee Vols

Tennessee's offense is one of the more productive units in the nation, claiming the 13th-best total offense in the FBS. Their running tandem of Wright and Sampson, as well as, Joe Milton have made for arguably the most dangerous backfield in the nation. They have come a long way since putting up a dud against Florida, they're for real and can punish you if you don't make stops and don't put Milton in a bind. Missouri's front seven is good, 24th in run defense and 16th in sacks, however, this is probably the best backfield this Tiger front seven will face. The Volunteers shouldn't hesitate to run their balanced attack as usual, run up-tempo, and keep this defense on the back foot. Take a page out of LSU's book on how to beat this defense as well, expose the middle of the field, and allow Joe Milton to run rampant. You do that, and you at the very least stay close to this Missouri offense, which is explosive in its own right.

The Tennessee defense is highly underrated. They fluster quarterbacks better than most in the FBS, tying for 8th in the nation in total sacks. This will be huge in slowing down Missouri, as a flustered Brady Cook is a Brady Cook who makes a lot of mistakes. The defensive backs will have a tough time with these receivers, but pushing Cook out of the pocket and forcing him into mistakes makes their job a lot easier. The Volunteers defensive line also excels at stopping the run but faces a tough ask in bottling up one of the more balanced running backs in the nation in Cody Schrader. He's incredibly tough to get down and shows a ton of tenacity, clogging up the run lanes and making guaranteed gang tackles will be a major key in making sure that dimension is taken away.

Final Score Prediction and Conclusion

This will be an offensive shootout that will bring a lot of fireworks, much akin to the LSU/Missouri matchup earlier this year. It feels like the first team that makes a mistake, the first offense to blink will be the one that ends up losing. When they're on, both teams can compete with the best of the SEC and the nation, we saw that with Missouri when they went down to Athens. However, we've also seen what these teams look like when they're off, see the end of Missouri/Georgia as well as Tennessee's debacle versus Florida. Tennessee though has the head-to-head, has played Missouri very well, and is currently on a tear. They'll run into a major challenge with the Tigers, but if they can play their game offensively against a Missouri defense that struggled versus a very similar offense like LSU's, as well as pressure Brady Cook, they will win this contest. It will be close, but Tennessee continues its late-season excellence. Vols by 3.

Tennessee 38-Missouri 35


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