4. Missouri Tigers
The South Carolina Gamecocks on the road are a tough SEC match-up. But the only reason the Missouri Tigers are ahead of them in terms of importance is due to the fact that the game is in Knoxville. Rocky Top could be in for a rocky day on this one, though.
Missouri and South Carolina both fit the bill of toss-up games that are more likely losses for the Vols. That’s because of the match-ups and state of the programs. Mizzou blew out Tennessee football last year.
On top of that, they have Drew Lock back at quarterback. Barry Odom’s team is now rolling, and this year, the Vols will go up against a familiar face coaching Lock. Derek Dooley is now Mizzou’s offensive coordinator. And that could be brutal for UT.
Dooley showed his final year in Knoxville, through all his flaws, that he does understand offense. And he has some weapons to work with. Getting Lock to be more NFL ready with a pro-style offense could be extremely tough for a Vols team struggling to adjust to the 3-4 system.
Because it’s later in the year and at home, this game is truly more of a toss-up than the West Virginia Mountaineers. That combined with the fact that it’s an SEC East game makes it significantly more important as well.
Tennessee football has a rivalry developing with the Tigers, who have actually been pretty impressive in their SEC run since they joined in 2012. The Vols will face another tough test with them this year, but it’s a crucial game for them if they want to accomplish anything.