After finishing a season-opening three-game streak at home in the non-conference, Tennessee is now heading into SEC play with a pair of road games. After taking on No. 11 Florida in Gainesville next weekend, the Vols will travel to Missouri in a game that will see the freshman head coach Josh Heupel return to confront one of his former employers. The SEC finalized start times and television designations for the Oct. 2 games on Monday, and the Tennessee-Missouri game will begin at noon and be televised by the SEC Network.
The first Saturday in October features one of the SEC’s best games of the season slate. The program includes Ole Miss in Alabama, Arkansas in Georgia, Florida in Kentucky and LSU in Auburn, as well as Texas A&M hosting Mississippi State in addition to the SEC East matchup between the Vols and the Tigers in Colombia. South Carolina (Troy) and Vanderbilt (Connecticut) are in non-conference action.
Missouri is 2-1 with a conference loss after losing to Kentucky in Week 2 of the season and is playing Boston College (noon, ESPN2) this week before hosting Tennessee.
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Tennessee has won the last two games of this series and could even win five games apiece with a victory in the 2021 game. Missouri has won five of the first eight meetings with the Vols after joining the SEC in 2012. Tennessee has already won in Colombia in 2015 and 2019, but was eliminated in 2013 and 2017.
Heupel’s only previous coaching experience in the SEC came at Missouri when he was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Barry Odome in 2016 and 2017. He inherited an offense that was bottom of the SEC in yards (280.9 ypg) and scoring (13.6) in 2015 and immediately transformed it, with the Tigers leading the the league in total offense (500.5 ypg) and finishing fifth in scoring (31.6). Missouri increased their averages to 37.5 points and 502.2 yards per game in 2017.
Under the leadership of Heupel, quarterback Drew Lock ranked second in the SEC in passing (283.3 ypg) and threw 23 touchdown passes with just 10 interceptions as a sophomore in 2016 and led the league in passing (304.9 ypg) and passer rating (165.67) while throwing an FBS-leading then-SEC record 44 touchdown passes in 2017. Lock completed just 49% of his passes and threw four touchdown passes with eight interceptions in the freshman season before the season. arrival of Heupel. He finished his career No. 2 on Missouri’s haul and touchdown lists.
Now with Connor Bazelak at quarterback, Missouri opened the 2021 season by repelling Central Michigan in a 34-24 win before falling to Kentucky in a 35-28 loss at Lexington. The Tigers bounced back with an easy 59-28 win over Southeast Missouri State last week. Bazelak has nine touchdowns with just one interception so far this season, and he came off the bench and passed for 218 yards in Missouri’s 35-12 loss to Tennessee in Week 2 of the 2020 season.
The Tigers lost five players in the 2021 NFL Draft, including running back Larry Rountree IIIlinebacker Nick Bolton and securities Tyree Gillespie and Joshua Bledsoe. To recover Tyler Badie currently ranks second in the SEC for rushing (345 yards in three games) and also leads the Tigers in receiving and has three receiving touchdowns in three games. rice transfer Blaze Alldredge already has 25 tackles, six tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks this season as Bolton’s backup at center linebacker.
Tennessee takes on No. 11 Florida this week in Gainesville (7 p.m., ESPN) as 16.5-point underdogs.