Tiger test awaiting Vols | Rick’s Keys vs. Missouri

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) — Tennessee is one of the hottest teams in the nation winning three straight and four of it’s last five, but the Vols must travel to Columbia to face a Missouri team that has a 5-2 edge in the series and has won two of the three meetings at home.

Now, while the Vols are surging, the Tigers have struggled losing four in a row while scoring just 13 points in their last three games. There’s no question, Mizzou’s strength is on the other side of the ball, a defensive unit that ranks in the Top-10 nationally giving up just 19 points a game and 131 yards rushing.

As has been the big question of late, which quarterback will lead the early charge for that UT offense? While we’re unsure again this week, we do know Jarrett Guarantano has done a terrific job coming off the bench and his teammates are quite appreciative.

Here are my keys to a fourth straight win for the Big Orange:

1. KELLY BRYANT: The Missouri quarterback is back from injury and providing a balanced attack for the Tigers with his ability to pass and run. A mobile QB hurt the Vols at Kentucky. Containing Bryant will be key Saturday night.

2. HOT START: The Vols have been a second half team of late, but there’s no need to give a team that’s lost four straight and has scored only 13 points in its last three games, any momentum. A hot start on a cold night with temps expected in 30’s would really be a good thing.

3. 6TH MAN: Whether he comes off the bench or starts the game, the Vols will need continued good play from Jarrett Guarantano. JG has completed 75% of his passes for 400 yards and five TD’s and no interceptions during the second half of the last five games.

4. LAUNDRY: Penalties have been a problem for Mizzou, a trend that if it continues, can help UT. For the year, Missouri is 111th in the country giving up about 68 yards a game. The Vols, by the way, are giving up 50 per game.

5. DON’T ZONE OUT: Tennessee has struggled in the red zone, ranked 105th in the nation. Fourth down has been troublesome for the Vols inside their opponent’s 20 yard line, converting just twice in 11 tries. Missouri hasn’t fared much better, ranked 126th in the country.

Dooley versus Chaney, while not necessarily a key to the game, will be interesting to keep tabs on as the former UT head coach and his offensive coordinator match wits against each other.

They’ll do so beginning at 7:30 pm Saturday night on the SEC Network. WVLT Sports reporter Zack Rickens is with the Big Orange and will have our coverage from Columbia, Missouri all weekend.