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A Foolproof Plan For Tennessee To Beat Missouri

Sep 8, 2018; Knoxville, TN, USA; Tennessee Volunteers wide receiver Jordan Murphy (11) runs for a touchdown against the East Tennessee State Buccaneers during the second half at Neyland Stadium. Tennessee won 59 to 3. (Randy Sartin/USA Today Sports)

After a big win at home against favored Kentucky last weekend, Tennessee will square off this Saturday with division foe Missouri. Here are a few things they will have to do to beat Mizzou on Senior Day in Neyland Stadium:

Find A Way To Slow Down Missouri’s Offense

Duh, right? Missouri is ranked third in the SEC in almost every major offensive statistic, behind Alabama and Ole Miss. Quarterback Drew Lock is the name on everybody’s lips going into the game, and for good reason. He finished out last season looking like a future first round draft pick. This season, however, hasn’t quite been the encore that he was probably hoping for. If you just look at the stats, you could make a case that he is the lesser of the two quarterbacks playing in this game.

Unfortunately for Tennessee, Lock isn’t the only weapon on this Missouri offense they are going to have to gameplan for. Running backs Larry Rountree III and Damarea Crockett have rushed for 758 and 699 yards, respectively. Their leading receiver, tight end Albert Okwuegbunam, will not be playing due to a shoulder injury, but receivers Emanuel Hall, Johnathon Johnson, and Jalen Knox should do just fine in his absence.

All that is to say, Jeremy Pruitt and company have their work cut out for them to slow down this offense. Tennessee has not won a game this season in which the opponent has scored more than 24 points, so it all starts with the defense. It should help that Tennessee is playing this one at home, but more on that in a bit.

Hold On To The Ball When You Get It

Obviously, this partially pertains to turnovers. They are bad to give up, after all. But more than that, Tennessee’s offensive drives need to last forever. Keeping Missouri’s offense off of the field as long as possible is by no means a bad strategy.

Remember that 17-play, nine-minute drive against West Virginia that culminated in a touchdown? Or the 15-play, eight-minute touchdown drive against South Carolina? Maybe the 12-play, seven-minute touchdown drive against Auburn? Yeah, those types of drives. Even just a couple of these could be the difference between Tennessee winning and losing.

Fortunately, Tennessee has been pretty good about turnovers so far this year. Jarrett Guarantano, for all of the complaints about him, has been great at not turning the ball over, only throwing two interceptions on the season. Unfortunately, some of Tennessee’s running backs have had trouble holding onto the ball, but Missouri’s defense has only recovered four fumbles all season. We’ll see if that makes a difference on Saturday.

Feed Off Of The Home Crowd

Especially on defense. On the road this season, including neutral sites, Tennessee has allowed around 453 yards on average to their opponents. At home, they have allowed around 296.

That’s a 157-yard difference for those that don’t have a calculator nearby.

Fortunately for Tennessee, this is also Senior Day the weekend after a win against a top-25 team, so the crowd should be more raucous than usual. Obviously, most teams tend to have some sort of advantage when they play at home. But, a few false starts here and miscommunications for the Missouri offense could make a difference by the end of the game.

Tennessee needs just one more win this season to become eligible for a bowl game, and the fans know it.

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