Missouri-Tennessee Preview

BY foxsports • November 19, 2014

Because of Georgia's victory last week, Missouri must win its remaining two contests to reach the SEC championship game for a second straight year.

That's a familiar situation for the 19th-ranked Tigers, who seek a school-record 10th consecutive road victory Saturday night at Tennessee.

Missouri (8-2, 5-1), 20th in the College Football Playoff rankings, managed to keep its slim lead atop the SEC East with a 34-27 win at Texas A&M this past Saturday. The Tigers took command with 28 points in the third quarter - including two long touchdown runs from Russell Hansbrough - but needed to stop the Aggies on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line with less than three minutes left to avoid overtime.

That effort might have put them on the verge of securing a second consecutive SEC East title had Georgia lost to Auburn, but the Bulldogs - who already defeated Missouri 34-0 on Oct. 11 - won easily to finish 6-2 in conference play.

That means the Tigers need victories against Tennessee (5-5, 2-4) and Arkansas to return to Atlanta.

Missouri had to win its final four games in 2013 to capture its first SEC East title, and started that run with a 31-3 rout of Tennessee on Nov. 2, 2013. The Volunteers are in the midst of a fourth consecutive losing season but they can secure a winning campaign with victories over the Tigers and Vanderbilt on Nov. 29.

Sophomore quarterback Joshua Dobbs has helped put the Volunteers on the verge of becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2010. Dobbs has 1,079 total yards - 790 passing - and has accounted for 11 touchdowns in his three games, with Tennessee winning the past two.

He threw for 297 yards and three TDs and ran for another in a 50-16 rout of visiting Kentucky this past weekend. Dobbs also had 467 total yards in a 45-42 overtime victory at South Carolina on Nov. 1.

"(Tennessee is) competing at a very high level and I think you have to point at him (Dobbs) and say he's the reason why," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said.

Dobbs will face a defense that has an SEC-best 34 sacks, led by Shane Ray's school-record 13. Missouri's 20.1 points and 340.6 yards allowed per game rank in the top 25 nationally.

Dobbs was sacked twice and threw two interceptions in last season's loss to Missouri. He also went 26 of 42 for 240 yards and ran for 45 on seven carries.

"They are a complete defense," Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. "When you watch them on film, they are very, very well coached. They are very gap conscientious and they don't beat themselves. They make you earn every throw. They make you earn every yard that you get."

Tennessee, 38th with 363.7 yards allowed per contest and 46th in scoring defense (24.1 ppg), suspended leading tackler A.J. Johnson and cornerback Michael Williams this week because they are subjects of a rape investigation.

Missouri is 13th in the SEC with 355.8 yards per game but had a season-high 587 against Texas A&M with 335 on the ground. Maty Mauk's 252 passing yards were easily his most in SEC play after he averaged 110.8 in the first five conference games, including a 20-yard effort in a win at Florida on Oct. 18.

Mauk was 12 for 25 for 163 yards in last season's win over Tennessee but connected on three touchdowns and rushed for a career-high 114 yards. Hansbrough added 61 on seven carries and a touchdown in that game.

The Tigers needed to battle through four overtimes for a 51-48 win in their first trip to Neyland Stadium on Nov. 10, 2012. That was the one of their two victories in their inaugural SEC season.