Vols Walking Into Hornet’s Nest


The Vols are walking into a Hornet’s nest today in Missouri.

There is a certain amount of uncertainty about the game today at Missouri for the Tennessee Vols. So much has transpired over the past few weeks at this Missouri campus. Poop Swastika’s, hunger strikes, the football team refusing to play, resigning University officials, and now the retirement of their beloved football coach. What a messed up place.

All of this is happening now, and the Vols are right in the middle of it. Who knows what is in store for this Tennessee team? Of all of the things that could matter most it is the sudden retirement of head coach Gary Pinkel that could be the most galvanizing for the Tigers.

The Tiger coach will be coaching his last home game at the embattled University. Pinkel has been at the helm since 2001. He brought the Missouri team into prominence in his tenure. I remember when they moved into the SEC under his guidance. I thought they would be a doormat for SEC East teams. I thought that finally Vanderbilt would have someone to look down on.

Nope. All they did was win Eastern Conference crowns in 2013 and 2014. He beat Tennessee. He beat Florida. He beat Georgia. He has more SEC East crowns than Vanderbilt, Kentucky, and South Carolina. They have only been playing in the SEC 2012. That is impressive.

I can’t believe I am typing these next words. The Vols have not beaten the Tigers since they joined. Let that sink in. I still am in denial. Missouri? That must stop today.

Tennessee is the better football team on paper. Take that for what it is worth which is nothing. Emotions play a big part in College Football. This game will be a powder keg of emotion for the out of control Missouri campus. To say they will be sky high is an understatement.

The Tigers have an overwhelming defense and an underwhelming defense. This will be the case next week for the Vols when they face the Vanderbilt Commodores. This Tiger defense is really good. It has been good since they moved into the league, and this one is right there again.

The Tigers are 8th in the country in total defense. The Commodores are 16th. Tennessee is not even in the top 50. Good defense usually stops good offenses. Vol fans will hope this is not the case today.

Tennessee ranks 50th in the country in Total Offense. The Tigers did not make the top 5o. Neither did Vandy. The only reason I mention the Commodores is that this will be the same narrative next week. Good defense versus decent offense. I always like the defense.

More from Tennessee Volunteers

Missouri’s offense has gone the way of the entire campus. An unruly Maty Mauk was suspended twice. He is gone from the mess that is the Missouri offense. He made way for talented freshman Drew Lock. It is his show, and he can sling it. He just doesn’t have the receivers to sling it to as in the past. But against the Vols in the past, the lesser known receivers have been the ones to kill the Vols in this game. DGB was not a factor.

The best news for the Tigers is they get back running back Russell Hansbrough. He is a serviceable back that knifed through the Vols defense last year on a few long runs. If Tennessee is to win this game, they will absolutely have to not give up the long explosive runs. Explosive plays have been the Vols Achilles all season. And the fourth quarter of course.

The Vols are 7 point favorites. As much uncertainty as there has been at Missouri, the same can be said at Tennessee. The Vols are coming off of a few poor games. After getting off to fast starts at South Carolina and against a hapless North Texas team, the Vols sputtered to close out games offensively.

Quarterback Joshua Dobbs is hurt. It is obvious. The Vols coaching staff wrangled him in last week against the North Texas squad. Dobbs was incredibly ineffective throwing the football. He could not hit the Tennessee River from the deck of one the Vol Navy boats last weekend. He is not an accurate passer, but last week he missed bad. I mean bad.

Today he will have to be superman Joshua Dobbs like he was earlier in the season. This offense of Butch Jones does not work without a quarterback that can run the football. Dobbs seems to throw the ball better when he is involved in the game more heavily. He relishes keeping the ball, and then getting back in the huddle again. He is a streaky, rhythmic passer. When he is on, he is terrific. When he is off, he is dreadful. Tennessee will lose if Dobbs is dreadful today.

Missouri has not seen many teams that can throw three different types of runners that are each capable of putting a hundy on them. Joshua Dobbs, Jalen Hurd, and Alvin Kamara are as good as it gets on the ground. But can the Vols beat the Tigers with just the run? The answer is no.

Tennessee has to get some production from the passing game today. It is time for the Vols to go to tight end Ethan Wolf today. It is time for Josh Malone to make a play and not drop a touchdown. Von Pearson must get open and make yards after the catch. In my mind, this will have to be one of Tennessee’s best offensive performances of the season to win.

Missouri is not going to score much. If the Vols can put up 24 today, I like their chances. But they are going to have to be more consistent through the air than of recent games. That is a fact. They will not be able to dive Jalen Hurd into the teeth of this good defense time after time successfully.

The Vols need to win. It is simple. A loss would be a set back in the grand scheme of Butch Jones brick by brick rebuild. Tennessee is better, and they need to win this game.

The Vols need to get out of Missouri today with a win, and as fast as possible. Leave the land of poop swastika’s, hunger strikes, and retiring administrators and football coaches as fast as possible. Just leave it behind as a winner though, and get back to Knoxville healthy for another tough test next week.