Although the Missouri Tigers faithful alarmingly made t-shirts after the team's first SEC win, Tennessee fans would take a win and a t-shirt right now.
The Volunteers (4-5) will put their 0-5 SEC record up against the Tigers (4-5, 1-5) at home—if they haven’t thrown in the towel already. They showed signs of indifference last week against Troy, allowing 48 points to the Trojans in a seven-point win.
Missouri has its one conference win over SEC bottom-feeder Kentucky and not much else to show for the season. What had started as a promising inaugural SEC season has turned into an injury-filled campaign for the Tigers.
The headlines have been about quarterback James Franklin, who has been dealing with inaccuracy issues resulting from a sprained MCL. Without his ability to make sharp throws and attack defenses with his dual-threat abilities, the Tigers do not offer much substance on the offensive end. For proof, look no further than the one touchdown and three interceptions for the offense against Florida last Saturday.
With SEC wins hard to come by, both teams would be glad to snag one over a similarly talented opponent. Check out the odds, matchup keys and game predictions below.
Where: Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, Tenn.
When: Saturday, November 10, 12:21 p.m. ET
Watch: SEC Network, ESPN3
Listen: 201 (XM), 135 (Sirius)
Looking at these teams’ season resumes, they have both given reasons not to be favored in this game. Tennessee’s offense can get touchdowns with one flick of Tyler Bray’s wrist, but the same throws could also be interceptions.
James Franklin wasn’t supposed to be known for the same variability, but he hasn’t been able to get his team down the field or avoid turning the ball over.
Missouri has the better defensive unit at No. 22 in the nation, but if its offense can’t contribute, it will all be for naught.
All in all, Tennessee is favored by the standard three points because the Volunteers are at home. Not much to deduce from this line; you can lean either way and feel pretty good about your odds.
Over/Under: 60 (via Odds Shark)
The oddmakers predict a high-scoring contest, likely due to the Vols’ tendency to light up the scoreboard. They have scored over 40 points in four games this season, making them one of the most explosive offenses in the SEC.
Missouri will add some points into the mix as well, but this game could go way under if the Tigers’ can figure out the Vols’ passing game. They only gave up 14 points to No. 6 Florida last week in Gainesville, so another strong performance on the road is not out of the question.
Missouri Injury Report (USA Today)
OL Justin Britt (Knee)- QUESTIONABLE
OL Jack Meiners (Knee)- OUT
WR Wesley Leftwich (Foot)- OUT
Tennessee Injury Report (USA Today)
RB Devrin Young (Concussion)- QUESTIONABLE
DL Omari Phillips (Suspension)- OUT
Both teams have their work cut out for them if they want to make a bowl game.
With that said, both Tennessee and Missouri possess winnable games throughout the rest of their schedule. Both squads need two wins to reach .500, and one team will have to win two straight when they lose in this matchup. Leave it to the SEC Logo to tell us how Tennessee can be bowl bound:
To Make a Bowl Game: #Tennessee (4-5, 0-5) (Wins needed: 3) Nov schedule: Troy, Missouri, at Vanderbilt, Kentucky— The SEC Logo (@SEC_Logo) November 1, 2012
Key for Missouri Victory: Threaten With Passing Game
Missouri’s offense has seemed to regress this season, but if it can muster some 2011 magic, then the Tigers can challenge Tennessee. James Franklin's dual-threat ability cannot be simulated in practice, so if he’s healthy enough to move around, he should take the Tigers down the field against the Vols’ 115th-ranked pass defense.
Receivers T.J. Moe and Marcus Lucas could give Franklin some help. Both upperclassmen know how to make plays in the deep third and will challenge the Tennessee secondary downfield. How much production they will have, however, is a huge question mark.
Key for Tennessee Victory: Throwing Deep and Often
The Vols’ strength lies in their downfield passing game. They should try to throw their way toward victory behind their dynamic receiving duo of Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson.
Missouri’s pass defense currently ranks 97th in the nation, a number that has Tyler Bray salivating. The quarterback’s 12th-ranked pass offense won’t hold anything back, as long as he can prevent turnovers and turn them into touchdowns.
Tennessee 31, Missouri 21
The Vols are healthier and hungrier. The home crowd for this first SEC victory will carry them, while the Tigers will have to win out for a bowl berth.