Emotions will be running high when Tennessee squares off with Missouri on Saturday afternoon. The Vols head into Senior Day with bowl eligibility on the line. Here are some key numbers to keep in mind for the matchup:
Two is obviously the number of quarterback Jarrett Guarantano. It is also the number of interceptions he has thrown all year. Last week, he broke the Vols’ record for most passing attempts without an interception. Can he keep that streak alive?
Guarantano has been really good at protecting the ball. He is also very accurate. His passing efficiency rating (149.2) and his completion percentage (65.1) both rank ahead of Lock’s numbers. The Missouri quarterback completes 62.1 of his passes and has an efficiency rating of 142.6.
Missouri’s pass defense isn’t disruptive. The defense as a whole ranks in the bottom-third of the FBS in takeaways per game with averaging a shade under one per contest. The Tigers have five interceptions on the year. Two of them have come from Christian Holmes who also has nine pass deflections. Look for Tennessee to utilize their receiving corps and efficient gunslinger.
Missouri and Tennessee had never faced off until the Tigers entered the SEC in 2012. Missouri leads the series with four wins. Four is also a common denominator when it comes to conference losses on the year for both teams.
This game will play a huge part in position rank within the division. With a win and a Vanderbilt loss, the Vols could lock up fifth place in the East Division. The Tigers lock it up with just a win.
Finishing fifth in the division doesn’t sound like much of an accomplishment, but it will be for these Vols. What Jeremy Pruitt has done to this point has been impressive. Despite starting the year with an extreme disadvantage, the coaches and players have progressed to the point where they have knocked off two ranked opponents.
What would be most impressive for Tennessee is sending the seniors out with one more big win in Neyland and clinching an extra game. These seniors deserve it.
This is an interesting number for Missouri. They average 5.9 yards per play on offense. Pretty impressive, right? Well, they also give up the same average on defense.
The offensive statistic is good enough for ranking in the top-third of the FBS, while the defensive number puts them in the bottom-half of that category.
It is a vastly different Missouri offense than what Tennessee has seen in recent years. As expected, offensive coordinator Derek Dooley has implemented more NFL concepts into the gameplan by making the Tigers more efficient than potent.
The run game is where Missouri poses the biggest threat. Running backs Damarea Crockett and Larry Rountree are a lethal combination. The former is one yard away from 700 rushing yards on the year. The latter has clipped that mark, sitting at 758 yards. But make no mistake about it, Drew Lock is still one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. He is just in a different offense. It has taken a while for Missouri to find their groove, but after notching a big win against Florida, it appears that things are fluid, offensively.
The Tigers have some playmakers defensively, but the numbers aren’t too bright. Tennessee actually has a better YPP average. The key for Missouri is its defensive performance on third down. They boast an impressive 34.6 conversion rate, good for 26th in the FBS. This will be key on Saturday. Tennessee has performed well on third downs, offensively. The Vols are 40th in the nation in that department with a 40.4 percent conversion rate. Something has to give.
Perhaps Missouri’s most impressive stat is the fact that they have only given up 12 sacks on the year. Sounds like Lock owes some big guys a steak dinner. The offensive line has been really good for the Tigers.
The Vols have 21 sacks on the season, five of which came last week versus Kentucky. Darrell Taylor had a monster game with four sacks. Can he keep up the production?
Or will it be someone else? The defensive front has been solid all year. There is a trend of guys taking turns when it comes to making an impact. Against Missouri, it might take a tandem to get to Lock.
Thirteen seniors will run through the “T” one last time. It has been a roller coaster ride for the elder statesmen. They entered a program that was going to bowl games. What they have endured the last couple of years speaks volumes to their character. They battled through inept coaching, injuries and position changes. Players like Kyle Phillips, Alexis Johnson, Jr., Shy Tuttle and Todd Kelly, Jr. are trying to finish their collegiate career by making a statement. These guys have made their mark one way or another this season.
This season has been quite a redemption for Tuttle, who has battled through injuries for most of his career. The senior from North Carolina had an interception and a blocked PAT against South Carolina. The highly-touted defensive tackle had a rough start to his career and has persevered through significant injuries. He has thrived in a new defensive scheme and has molded himself into a fine nose tackle.
Phillips has been solid. His coming-out party happened in the upset victory versus Auburn. The Hillsboro product had nine tackles that game. Perhaps Phillips’ most impressive accomplishments have come in the classroom. He is a three-time SEC Academic Honor Roll selection. It is safe to say he is on his way to making it a fourth in-a-row.
This has been Johnson’s breakout year. The Atlanta native impressed right away. He made his first career start against West Virginia and finished with four tackles, including one for loss. He also contributed to the defensive feast at Auburn by recording six tackles and a sack. Even when he isn’t getting the quarterback to the ground, he is applying consistent pressure.
Kelly could have easily given up on football or transferred, but he didn’t. The redshirt senior has battled injuries and a coaching overhaul. Playing time was at a minimum to begin the season for precautionary reasons. However, the local star from Webb School is back to being a steady rotation in the defensive backfield. He recorded six tackles in his first start of the year against South Carolina.