6. At Missouri Tigers
While the UAB Blazers are a circled win for Tennessee football that could be a loss, the Missouri Tigers are a circled loss that could be a win. In fact, the ESPN FPI has the Vols as a slight favorite, for whatever reason, to beat Mizzou in Columbia next year.
This game should still be a circled loss, which is why it’s in the middle of the pack on the list. But that FPI rating gives the Vols a much better chance of beating the Tigers than losing to the Blazers.
Combine that with the fact that it’s a conference game, and this is even more important. It’s also the second to last game of the year, scheduled for Nov. 23. So the outcome could depend on the type of season the Vols had already enjoyed and what they have to play for.
Then there’s all the offseason talk. Barry Odom was mad earlier this year about Jeremy Pruitt trying to recruit some of his players after the Tigers received a one-year bowl ban. He said they resolved their issues at SEC Media Days, only for DeMarkus Acy to reignite the fire by alluding to Mizzou’s dominance over the Vols the past two years.
That dominance, winning back to back 50-17 games, combined with them winning five of seven since joining the SEC, make the Tigers a very important game for the Vols. There are also even more storylines, as former UT head coach Derek Dooley, is now in his second year as offensive coordinator for the Tigers, and his former OC in Knoxville, Jim Chaney, has returned to Rocky Top.
Finally, there’s the Kelly Bryant storyline and the status of the bowl ban. If the bowl ban upholds, it could have an impact on Mizzou’s dedication to the season and this game. All of these factors make this the first really intriguing matchup on the list.