The Vols now hold the longest winning streak in the SEC, 8 games, after their victory over Missouri. It was a rather easy, but hard-fought game, so here are observations from this game, plus some early thoughts on Tennessee vs Georgia.
The Vols' Running Game is Powerful
After the SEC ruled Cade Mays eligible this week, the Vols O-Line got even better than it was before. This showed in this week, with the Vols racking up 232 yards and 4 touchdowns on the ground, 1 by Gray, 1 by Chandler, and 2 by Guarantano. Gray's TD catch technically could of counted as a rush TD, as the ball was caught at the line of scrimmage and ran 13 yards in. Nevertheless, the Vols rush attack totally killed the Missouri defense, with the exception of Nick Bolton. Even true freshman Jabari Small got in on the action, rolling over a Missouri defender on the way to a 15-yard carry to start his Tennessee career. With this run game, I wouldn't be surprised if you see the Vols sticking with big opponents later in the season.
The Vols already had secondary issues losing Shawn Shamburger due to a possible COVID-19 precaution. Shamburger did not allow a single touchdown while he was in coverage last year. Against South Carolina, Tennessee started true freshman Doneiko Slaughter at that position. Slaughter ended up getting rolled by Shi Smith. This time, the Vols started Theo Jackson there and it worked well. Jackson came away with a game-sealing interception off of Connor Bazelak. The issues got slightly worse though, which Bryce Thompson limited due to an injury this game. The Vols will need to get this unit in shape next week if they want to compete against Georgia.
The Vols went 4-for-4 on 4th down attempts this game, and all four were Jarrett Guarantano sneaks. Additionally, his 1 of his 2 scores was a sneak from the 1-inch line. Part of this sneaky success was because of a loaded offensive line, which helped the Vols in infinite ways this season.
Josh Palmer is the Lead Dog
As predicted, senior Josh Palmer took over the number 1 wide receiver role this season. He's done exceptionally well, leading the Vols in receiving yards in both games, with 4 receptions for 71 yards this week. Palmer can't do it all by himself, and he won't have to, with the Vols depth at WR this season. True freshman Jalin Hyatt recorded 2 receptions for 54 yards, USC grad-transfer Velus Jones Jr. had 1 reception for 23 yards, Brandon Johnson had 3 receptions for 17 yards, Eric Gray had 1 catch for 13 yards and a touchdown, and Ty Chandler had 3 catches for 13 yards. The Vols also played Ramel Keyton and Cedric Tillman, but both ended the game without a catch.
Can the Vols beat Georgia?
The common answer for most people is no. They haven't beat the Dawgs since 2016, with the dramatic ending and the double hail mary. The Dawgs looked rusty against Arkansas mainly due to the fact that they had quarterback issues. The Vols are lucky they get Georgia third, and they get them after Georgia plays Auburn. The Vols, in fact, I think do have a good chance at taking down Georgia, given the fact that their offensive line can just ruin a team's defensive plan. The only concerns I have is special teams and the secondary. Our special teams looked terrible in both contests, especially Brent Cimaglia. The missed 46-yarder vs South Carolina can be excused to a bad snap, but the 39-yard miss for "Automaglia" can not be overlooked as there were not problems on that snap. Also, Paxton Brooks, who has been very consistent on kickoffs, ended up booting one out of bounds, giving Mizzou great field position. the secondary is not looking like it will get any better, but luckily, Georgia is in the midst of a QB mess, which can hopefully translate into a lesser workload for the secondary.