Fearless Prediction: Tennessee vs. Missouri
I write this week’s Fearless Prediction from Ouray, Colorado … otherwise known at the Switzerland of America. My friend Michael convinced me to make the trip west, so I flew out here last Saturday night. This area of the country is gorgeous and I can’t wait to get up close with the scenery.
That said, I had to watch the majority of the Tennessee/South Carolina game on my phone from the Salt Lake City airport. When I took off on my connecting flight to Grand Junction, the Vols and Gamecocks were tied at 24 in the 4th quarter. Just like former Tennessee AD John Currie heading west to interview Mike Leach, I had no WiFi on the plane. So I had no idea if the Vols won or lost.
The moment we landed, I got my phone out of airplane mode and learned via Twitter that the Vols were victorious 31-27.
Yes. The Vols are going 13-0. That’s inevitable. Start planning your trips to Atlanta and Miami Gardens posthaste.
Tennessee plays its home opener Saturday afternoon against Missouri. The Tigers are coming off a 38-19 loss to Alabama, in a game that wasn’t nearly that close.
Missouri is breaking in a new head coach, a new offensive coordinator and a new quarterback, so it isn’t a surprise that the Tigers struggled offensively. (Granted, Alabama had something to do with that.) Quarterback Shawn Robinson didn’t show much of a desire to throw deep against the Tide, averaging less than 8 yards per attempt. This is music to the ears of the Vols’ defense.
The Mizzou defense didn’t have much of an answer for the Tide passing game, giving up 303 yards overall (and 2 touchdowns to receiver Jaylen Waddle).
New Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz has a lot of work ahead of him. It’s going to take time for the Tigers to once again be competitive in the SEC. With that in mind, the Vols are getting them at a terrific time on the docket.
Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano has his passes examined as if they were every frame of the Zapruder film. Against the Gamecocks he was 19-of-31 for 259 yards and a touchdown (he also had a short TD run). Did he miss open receivers? He most certainly did. But he also led the Vols down the field for the game-winning touchdown with money throws to Brandon Johnson and Josh Palmer, who has definitely taken on the mantle of the Vols’ No. 1 receiver.
Guarantano is what Guarantano is. The Vols don’t have a better quarterback on the roster at the present time, so they’ll roll with him as long as they can. Is he Peyton Manning? No. But is he Jim Bob Cooter? The answer is also no.
Defensively the Vols took their lumps at times against the Gamecocks but were able to make stops when they needed to, and that was a big reason they left Columbia victorious. The pick-6 from Henry To’o To’o in the second quarter was an example of why he is Tennessee’s best player. Deandre Johnson’s 2.5 sacks might be a hint that he’s ready to become the second coming of Darrell Taylor in terms of pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Neyland Stadium will look and feel a lot different Saturday. There will be approximately 25,000 fans in the stands, a far cry from the 102,455 capacity. Still, you can expect them to try to make life difficult for the Tigers, even with those limited numbers.
Much like when I looked at the Tennessee/South Carolina game, I don’t see enough talent on the Missouri roster for the Tigers to pull an upset. The Vols are more experienced, riding a 7-game winning streak dating to October 2019 and playing with confidence.
Fearless Prediction time …
Tennessee 34, Missouri 20