A year ago, the Tennessee football team was looking to fight out the end of their schedule to make a bowl game. However, Missouri waltzed into Knoxville, Tenn. for the first time in school history and stole a win in overtime, which later led to the Vols remaining non-bowl eligible for the second consecutive season.
Fast-forward a year later, Tennessee is still striving to become bowl eligible, needing just two more victories in their next four games. Missouri, however, is the team with the most to lose in only the second ever matchup between the two squads.
After a dismal beginning to their SEC careers, the Tigers find themselves atop the SEC East standings through eight games this season. After a loss to South Carolina at home last week, Missouri will need to win out in their conference schedule if they hope to make it to the conference championship game in just their second season in the SEC.
What awaits them this time around is a Tennessee team that has virtually nothing to lose, and everything to gain, much like the Tigers did in their trip to Neyland Stadium last year.
For the third time in the last four seasons, Tennessee will start a freshman quarterback, Josh Dobbs, on Saturday. Dobbs made his debut last week against Alabama after junior quarterback Justin Worley left the game when he re-aggravated a thumb injury he suffered against South Carolina the week prior. Worley had surgery to repair the torn ligaments in his thumb earlier this week, and is listed as out indefinitely.
Dobbs will become the eighth true-freshman to start at quarterback in Tennessee history, Alan Cockrell was the first to do so in the 1981 season. Freshman quarterbacks are 5-2 when making their first official start, the most recent came in 2011 when Worley started for the Vols against South Carolina. Tennessee lost that game 14-3.
The Vols have suffered four losses this season, all to ranked opponents and three on the road. The last time Tennessee won an SEC matchup on the road that wasn’t against Vanderbilt or Kentucky, was when they defeated Mississippi State en route to an improbable SEC East division title run.
Speaking of an improbable run, the Volunteers could find themselves in the midst of an SEC Eastern division race with a win on Saturday.
If the Vols are able to knock off the No. 9 Tigers on Saturday, they would blow the SEC East wide-open. While Missouri sits at 3-1 in conference play, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida all sit with just two conference losses a piece. If Tennessee pulls off the upset, three teams could be deadlocked atop the eastern standings as long as South Carolina defeats Mississippi State as well.
A Tennessee victory would put them just one game behind the leaders in the SEC East, and they would own tiebreakers over Missouri and South Carolina. The Vols would still have to win out and need a little outside help with those ahead of them losing, but nonetheless they are still alive in the race to Atlanta, Ga.
The Tennessee Volunteers (4-4, 1-3) will take on the No. 9 Missouri Tigers (7-1, 3-1) on Saturday, Nov. 2 at 7 p.m. EST on ESPN in Columbia, Mo.
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