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Tennessee travels to Missouri

Both teams are looking to avoid an 0-2 start in SEC play.

Tennessee v Missouri Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

As the calendar flips to October, we’ve reached Week 5 of the college football season and after it’s over we’ll know a lot more about where the Tennessee Volunteers and Missouri Tigers really stand this season. This is a pivotal matchup for potential bowl placement/eligibility and will set the tone for the final two thirds of the season for these squads. Someone will be above .500 and someone will have a losing record after it’s over as both teams come into this game with 2-2 records. The 2021 installment of this series will take place in Columbia.

How to watch Tennessee vs. Missouri

Time: Noon

TV: SEC Network

Watch Online: ESPN App

Betting Odds

(via Odds Shark)

Spread: Tennessee +3 | Mizzou -3

Moneyline: Tennessee +130 | Mizzou -150

Total: 65

At quick glance, this game looks like a complete coin flip and the line indicates that. Mizzou is getting the 3 points for being the home team, but there doesn’t appear to be much to separate these teams according to the pundits and prognosticators.

The one area where there is some notable separation and what I think will ultimately be the difference in the game is on the defensive side of the ball. Expectations for both defenses coming into the season weren’t very high. The Vols have had to deal with an above-average number of outgoing transfers due to a new coaching staff coming in and this included the loss of standout linebacker Henry To’o To’o to Alabama. Eli Drinkwitz is only in his second season in CoMo and is still gaining his footing on the recruiting trail. There aren’t as many playmakers on defense as the Tigers would like at the moment.

The Missouri defense has struggled to the point where they currently rank 115th nationally in total defense. Their opponents know they can just line up and run the ball on them. So far in 2021, the Tigers are giving up nearly 270 yards per game on the ground. On the flip side, the Vols have actually been pretty solid given the expectations. Tennessee ranks 45th in total defense and they have already played a dangerous offense in Florida.

Beyond a pretty good defense, the Vol offense is starting to find its footing with Hendon Hooker under center. Since he taking over for an injured Joe Milton, the Virginia Tech transfer has a 65% completion percentage and a 7:1 touchdown to interception ratio. He’s also a rushing threat. Combine that with a few explosive weapons like JaVonta Payton and I think the Vols have the edge in this one. There is some slight injury scuttlebutt with Hooker, however. He had to leave the game in the fourth quarter vs. Florida after taking a hard sack, but he’s likely to suit up on Saturday as he isn’t currently in the concussion in protocol.

Don’t be surprised if this game remains close throughout, but in the end, the Tiger defense will prove to be too much of a hindrance to their success as a team yet again. Too much pressure will be put on Connor Bazelak to extend drives with his arm for Mizzou and while he’s talented, that’s a lot to ask on what could be a wet day in the Show Me State.

Prediction: Tennessee 31, Missouri 24