KNOXVILLE, Tenn — After many moons of waiting, Tennessee will finally have a chance to play a football game inside of Neyland Stadium. The No. 21 Volunteers host Missouri in an early SEC East matchup.
The Vols are coming off of a 31-27 win against South Carolina on the road, while the Tigers lost at home last week to No. 2 Alabama, 38-19. With a win against Missouri, Tennessee would start a season 2-0 for the first time since 2017 and open up SEC play 2-0 for the first time since 2016.
While Tennessee didn't win pretty last Saturday, the fact of the matter is, a win is a win is a win especially in the SEC. Tennessee did it with big plays and a defense that bent, but never broke. Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano completed 61 percent of his passes for 259 yards and a touchdown: a 32-yard strike in the fourth quarter to Josh Palmer for the go-ahead score.
Defensively, sophomore linebacker Henry To'o To'o continues to be a force, adding his own touchdown with a pick-six in the second quarter.
When the Vols kickoff against Missouri, there will be fans in the stadium. Game day seating will be at approximately 25 percent of the venue's full capacity.
Missouri ran into a brick wall to start the season by hosting Alabama, but the Tigers were able to make a dent in that seemingly impenetrable fortress. Missouri racked up 9 tackles for loss and two sacks against Alabama. Staying ahead of the chains will be very important for Tennessee against the good front seven the Tigers present.
New head coach Eliah Drinkwitz hasn't had a full offseason to install his system, but there still could be problems. Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt described his offense as creative with the ability to stretch a defense both horizontally and vertically. Missouri had three plays of 20+ yards in the passing game, including a 54-yard touchdown. Although to be fair, two of those three came in the second half when the game had already been decided.
Here are some other points to watch for during the game:
This week, the Georgia transfer was finally given his eligibility by the SEC and will be allowed to play for the Vols this season. Where he will fit with the offensive line and when he will fit is the major question now. Mays is an incredibly talented player, but finding the right place for him on the line will be important. He showed versatility at Georgia, playing multiple positions. Also, keep an eye on if he starts or gets rotated in during the game. Either way, his presence should provide a major boost for Tennessee.
Tennessee was 1/11 on third down against South Carolina, which currently ranks second to last in the country behind only Tulsa. The Vols will have to avoid negative plays and stay in third and short situations, which may prove difficult against a Missouri team that thrives on creating chaos in the backfield
This goes without saying, but the though of a Neyland Stadium opening game with only 25 percent capacity is a bit jarring. The environment in Neyland, from both a safety and enjoyment perspective, will be important to watch not just against Missouri, but as the season unfolds.
Tennessee and Missouri will get things started at noon on Saturday, you can watch the game on SEC Network. Follow along with WBIR and WBIR Sports on Twitter and Facebook for live updates throughout the game as well as coverage afterward.