By: Sammy Stava
There’s a lot on the line when Missouri visits Neyland Stadium on Saturday afternoon against Tennessee (2:30 p.m. CT kick-off on KTRS), and that includes Mizzou offensive coordinator Derek Dooley making his much anticipated return to Knoxville. Dooley spent three seasons as Tennessee’s head coach from 2010-2012, posting a 15-21 record, going to just one bowl game in his first season.
That’s what the Volunteers are trying to accomplish under first-year head coach Jeremy Pruitt as Tennessee (5-5, 2-4 SEC) can clinch bowl eligibility with a win on Saturday, which also happens to be their Senior Night.
Missouri (6-4, 2-4 SEC) has already clinched bowl eligibility for the second straight season as they beat Vanderbilt 33-28 last Saturday to make that happen. Last season, Missouri beat Florida, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, and Arkansas on their way to finishing with a 4-4 SEC record and the Tigers are halfway to beating those same opponents this season.
With a postseason spot clinched, here are the eight bowl-game scenarios for Mizzou:
— Mizzou Football (@MizzouFootball) November 10, 2018
Senior quarterback Drew Lock is hungry for more, however. “I just can’t see us not getting to 8-4, and if we don’t get to 8-4, it just won’t feel right. It won’t be as good as it should have been.” That’s what you would want and expect from one of the team’s captains, who now will have three more games remaining in his college career.
The Tigers have won three out of their last four and will need to win two straight to finish with that 8-4 record. And it won’t be easy. Two of five Tennessee’s win this season have coming against ranked opponents, at No. 21 Auburn on October 13th, and vs No. 11 Kentucky last week. Not to mention that Tennessee will be playing for a bowl game on their Senior Night, the Volunteers will be motivated and have plenty to play for.
It may be even more difficult given Missouri’s injury report, as head coach Barry Odom announced at Tuesday’s press conference that TE Albert Okwuebugnam, WR Nate Brown, and CB Adam Sparks won’t play this week. Those are some significant injuries, but everybody else should be active and playing.
“I don’t want to ever say I’m comfortable, but I’ve got a really good feel of who we are”, Odom said about his team. The numbers show it, as he’s 8-2 in November games and currently 11-5 in the second half of the season as a head coach. However, he’s also got a lot more to prove.
Going to back-to-back bowl games in two of your first three seasons as a first-time head coach in the SEC is nothing to be ashamed of, but this Missouri team has much higher goals – just ask Drew Lock. Getting to 8-4 would be a step in the right direction for this program.