Missouri vs Tennessee Odds, Picks & Predictions | Back Hendon Hooker & Co.
Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker.
Missouri vs Tennessee Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
The Missouri Tigers head to Rocky Top in a clash of SEC East teams with head coaches who were hired for their reputations as offensive geniuses. Their results couldn’t be farther apart.
Josh Heupel’s Volunteers have taken the college football world by storm this season with their preposterous pace and prolific passing.
Despite a loss to Georgia last week, this team remains in the playoff picture, and Hendon Hooker is still in the Heisman conversation. This is one of the best offenses in college football.
Eli Drinkwitz’s offenses in Columbia have gotten progressively worse each season; question marks abound on the offensive line, and the quarterback play is mediocre.
The “eye candy” of pre-snap movements, funky alignments, and misdirection have all been eaten alive this season, and the offense has ground to a halt.
But Missouri has turned over a new leaf on defense — aggressive transfer portal activity and a schematic overhaul from new coordinator Blake Baker has seen the Tigers improve from 97th in SP+ last year to 19th this season.
Last year, Heupel and Hooker hung 62 on Missouri without breaking a sweat, leading by a score of 45-10 at halftime.
Should you bet on another offensive explosion, or can Missouri’s new-look defense do what only Georgia has done so far this season?
It’s impossible to overstate both how disappointing Missouri’s offense is under a coach with Drinkwitz’s reputation, and how surprising the defensive turnaround from last season’s nadir has been.
The Missouri offense has bottomed out, ranking 113th in EPA. It's bad at everything, ranking 107th in Pass EPA and 110th in Rush EPA.
Their goal is to play slow, minimize possessions, catch a few break, and hopefully score just enough points to end up with more of them than their opponent.
They're on the brink of a bowl game because they've prevailed in rock fights against Vanderbilt and South Carolina, even if the breaks have gone against them against Auburn, Kentucky, and Florida.
The defensive turnaround has been thrilling in Columbia. Missouri plays an aggressive style and ranks fifth in the country in creating Havoc. The Missouri front “seven” — six in Blake Baker’s 4-2–5 scheme — creates Havoc on 16% of snaps, one of the better marks in the country.
Linebacker Ty’Ron Hopper is a force, as is the deep rotation of disruptive linemen. Missouri will need this unit to slow down the Tennessee running game without committing extra numbers to the box and to pressure Hooker, the same way the Georgia defense did.
That's easier said than done with merely good players and not blue-chippers like on Georgia’s roster.
This task will be even harder because Missouri will not be able to control the game with its offense as Georgia did. By gaining an early lead with productive drives and explosive passes, the Bulldogs showed that they would be able to keep score with the Volunteers, something Missouri’s offense can't replicate.
While I don’t believe last season’s result is instructive (because of the completely different personnel and scheme on Missouri’s defense), I do believe that Drinkwitz’s road record is. Drinkwitz is 3-9 in conference road games at Missouri, with six of those nine losses being uncompetitive.
While the clock may have struck midnight on the Cinderella season for the Volunteers last week in Athens, this is still an incredible team that has plenty left to fight for.
The SEC title hopes might have realistically vanished, but Hooker is in the Heisman race, and a playoff berth is still in their sights.
Heupel, Hooker and their weapons — mainly receivers Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman — have the veer-and-shoot Baylor offense operating at a high level.
They've incinerated every defense they've faced except for the historically great one. Even good defenses like LSU, Alabama, Pittsburgh and Kentucky have been rocked by Tennessee.
Hyatt is one of the key cogs in this points-scoring machine. Tennessee’s slot receiver is second in FBS with 970 receptions and has found pay dirt 14 times already. He averages 19 yards per reception, and one of the core memories of the 2022 season will be Hyatt galloping untouched through the Alabama secondary.
He should have another big day on Saturday. Missouri has two excellent cornerbacks in Ennis Rakestraw and Kris Abrams-Draine, but they rarely match up with slot receivers, only a few snaps a game each.
Hyatt will have a decided speed advantage over whichever nickel/safety hybrid covers him in Baker’s defense. Expect a big day.
Do I need to bother spilling electronic ink on the matchup on the other side of the ball? Tennessee doesn't have a shutdown defense, but it doesn't need one to grind Missouri to a halt.
Tennessee’s excellent rush defense (6th in EPA) will stand up Missouri’s ground game, and Brady Cook is not a good enough quarterback to challenge Tennessee’s secondary the way quality passing teams can.
This is a get-right game for Tennessee’s defense after having such a miserable time between the hedges last week.
I also expect Missouri’s offense, which is so generous with the football, to give Tennessee at least one or two short fields to work with.
Missouri vs Tennessee Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Missouri and Tennessee match up statistically:
Missouri Offense vs. Tennessee Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)
Tennessee Offense vs. Missouri Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)
Pace of Play / Other
|SP+ Special Teams
|Seconds per Play
Data via CollegeFootballData.com (CFBD), FootballOutsiders, SP+, Pro Football Focus and SportSource Analytics.
Missouri vs Tennessee Betting Pick
Tennessee is vulnerable to strong passing attacks, but Missouri doesn't have the offense to play ball control or score at a similar rate as the Vols.
Tennessee’s offense might be vulnerable to being shut down by one defense in the country — unfortunately, that defense happens to be in the same division.
Missouri’s defense is strong but does not have the blue-chip players to pull off the same trick Georgia did.
Tennessee will win this game comfortably at home. My favorite play is to take the Tennessee team total over 37.5, which sits at -115 at DraftKings.
The Vols will score 40 in this game and could break 50 to take out last week’s frustrations and earn style points for the College Football Playoff committee.
Avoid a backdoor cover, and trust Hooker, Heupel and Hyatt to find the end zone repeatedly.