Tonight, Tennessee next challenge finds them in a chilly Columbia, Mo. to take on the surprising Missouri Tigers. The Vols again find themselves a healthy underdog so what's key for team #117 to pull the update. We look at four of them with The Cheat Sheet.
1. Get out of the gates - The Vols have played their best competition on the road. The result is that the Vols have been outscored 90-14. Despite the level of competition, the Vols have been poor to start road games. At Oregon and Florida, the defense got a stop only to see the offense turn it over on their first possession. Against Alabama, the Vols gave up a 54 yard touchdown then offensively failed to convert on third down when Brendan Downs was wide open. Beyond the numbers the biggest issue last Saturday is that the Vols seemed overwhelmed with the setting. Missouri isn't Alabama, but the Tigers are good. They have plenty to play for still and Tennessee must be ready out of the gate.
2. Tackle - Tennessee's defense struggled to tackle in the open field against South Carolina and Alabama. Missouri brings speed and a lot of size on the perimeter with starting receivers that are 6-6, 6-5, 6-4. Throw into that mix a scrambling quarterback in Maty Mauk and tackling in open space on the outside is again a major task for John Jancek's defense. This is a Missouri offense that has 8 touchdown plays of 35 yards or more.
3. Take care of the ball - Tennessee gave themselves chances to win against Georgia and they did against South Carolina by taking care of the ball. The Vols must do that tonight and the road has been a pretty hefty turnover fest for the offense. In three road games, Tennessee has turned it over 8 times including 2 last week at Alabama. Tennessee will have a hard time winning if they lose the turnover battle.
4. Get Dobbs comfortable - Everyone, including myself, was impressed with Josh Dobbs poise and management of the second half at Alabama. But that was a half where the game was over and there were zero expectations. Tonight is different as there is plenty on the line and the expectation levels are different. It's imperative that Dobbs' teammates and offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian get Dobbs comfortable quickly. And Missouri is a hard team to get comfortable with. Unlike Alabama who hasn't had great success getting to the quarterback, the Tigers have made opposing quarterbacks miserable. Missouri has 17 sacks in SEC play (4 games) led by defense ends Michael Sam and Kony Ealy. Tennessee's talented offensive tackles will have their hands full.