For the third weekend in a row, the Tennessee Volunteers have a chance to knock off one of the nation's powerhouse teams. On Saturday, they take on Missouri.
Tennessee split games between South Carolina and Alabama. A thrilling win over the Gamecocks was followed by a fearsome drubbing, as 'Bama easily imposed its will on the Vols, winning 45-10 last weekend.
Missouri just lost its first game of the season last weekend, falling 27-24—to the same Gamecocks team Tennessee beat—in double overtime to fall to 7-1 on the season.
Predictably, oddsmakers aren't favoring Tennessee on the road this weekend. As of Thursday night, the Tigers were favored by 10.5 points (Covers.com), and the prevailing thought is that Mizzou will run away with the game.
However, if Tennessee is able to play a perfect game, the Volunteers will score another upset. Here's what must happen in order to facilitate such an outcome.
Stuff the Run
Everything Missouri does on offense right now is predicated based on the team's rushing attack—especially since James Franklin injured his shoulder. Franklin is listed as questionable this weekend, as noted by ESPN.com's Joe Schad:
Even if Franklin does make his return, the first thing Tennessee must do on defense is shut down Missouri's potent rushing attack. Ranked No. 19 in the nation, averaging 224.5 yards per game, the Tigers have scored a whopping 23 rushing touchdowns.
South Carolina's effort last weekend, holding the Tigers to 155 yards, can be considered a success, as the Gamecocks allowed just 3.8 yards per carry. This performance by South Carolina's defensive front was the key to winning the game.
Control the Clock
Missouri isn't the only program that runs the ball effectively in this contest.
Tennessee features the nation's No. 41-ranked running offense, averaging 192.4 yards per game. Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane have combined for 1,123 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns this year, and the Volunteers need to ride these two phenomenal running backs for all they're worth this Saturday.
It's imperative that Tennessee is able to move the chains in this contest, grinding out long, efficient offensive possessions that keep Missouri's potent offense (41.8 points per game) off the field.
The best way to achieve this goal is by establishing a running game that wears down Missouri's defense.
Do All the Little Things Right
Tennessee can't afford little mistakes in this game.
Dropped passes, missed assignments, fumbles and interceptions will certainly doom the Volunteers to failure on the road in a hostile environment against a superior opponent.
Even if the Vols play a mistake-free game, this game is by no means settled in their favor. Tennessee must do everything right, force a few turnovers and pray for a bit of luck to walk out of Faurot Field with a win.
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