Tennessee’s defense perfect for struggling Missouri offense

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Tennessee’s defense is bad. Like really bad. Like 115th in the country bad. Statistically, it’s the worst defense Tennessee has ever fielded, and fans are reeling because of their rich history of strong defensive players and coaches.

Sal Sunseri’s squad has struggled mightily in his first season as the Vols’ defensive coordinator. In 2011 under Justin Wilcox, Tennessee finished 27th in the country in total defense, giving up 340 yards per game, and it seems like light-years ago when the Vols were in position on defense to make plays. The ‘12 Vols are giving up over 480 (480!) yards of total offense every week.

Derek Dooley emphasized this week that he would attend all the defensive meetings in preparation for Missouri on account of his wretched defense. But it’s much too late for that. One would think that would have taken place after the Vols narrowly escaped by Akron back in week four.

Dooley also said that Sunseri may make the move to the press box this weekend to give him a better vantage point in calling defensive plays, after Troy rolled up 721 offensive yards last week. Sunseri is just disappointed with himself.

“He’s the boss. I think it will be good,” Sunseri said. “I’m disappointed in myself because I know what (the players) have the capability of doing, I just got to get it out of them.”

Whether or not he does move to the box remains to be seen. But there’s little doubt some type of change must be made.

Tennessee does have some talent on defense. There’s a solid front seven, but the secondary has just been awful. Ever since Brian Randolph went down with a knee injury against Florida, the secondary has been getting progressively worse throughout the season. There’s a major void in pass rushers and linebackers, as Curt Maggitt and Jacques Smith just have not lived up to expectation yet.

The good news for Tennessee is that Missouri’s offense has struggled just as much as Tennessee’s defense. The Tigers, after finishing 12th in the country in total offense for 2011, is 112th in total offense, only averaging 319 yards per game.

Namely, the lifeblood of the spread attack in quarterback James Franklin has had a very bad season. Gary Pinkel still contends that he sticks behind his starter, hoping things will click in great proportions just like last season. Franklin finished with over 2,800 yards passing and 980 yards rushing and combined for 36 touchdowns. This year has been injury plagued for him, from his shoulder to his knee, but the numbers are way down. Franklin has only thrown for 1,057 yards and rushed for 104 yards with five total touchdowns. Furthermore, he’s thrown six picks compared to just four touchdowns. Last week against Florida in a very winnable game, Franklin went out and threw four picks.

In order to run Missouri’s spread attack – or any spread attack for that matter – successfully, the quarterback has to be dynamic. He’s been anything but that through the first 10 weeks.

Bad meets bad this weekend in Knoxville, and the real matchup will be seen when Tennessee is on offense against Missouri’s defense. However, this is the perfect game for the Tigers to get back on track offensively, because the Tigers’ struggling offense is better than the Vols’ bad defense. Both teams combine for just 1-10 in SEC play this season.

The good news for Tennessee is that the offense can score 40 points in every game. The bad news is that they will have to.

Photo Credit: Douglas Jones-US PRESSWIRE

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  • the picks Franklin threw against UF told me that knee is in rough shape. Horrible Overthrows of wide open receivers that he would have normally completed with ease lead me to believe he is overcompensating with his arm due to the inability to plant firmly. I wanted to pick Mizzou in this game but doubt they can outscore that UT passing attack. I believe Mizzou would have won a few more games this year with a healthy QB.