Ahead of Tennessee’s matchup with Missouri, The Daily Beacon talked with The Maneater’s football beat writer and Sports Editor, Kyle Pinnell.
Here’s how Pinnell broke down Tennessee and Missouri’s pivotal week five matchup.
Question: Tennessee’s strength on offense comes from Tiyon Evans and Jabari Small. Conversely, Missouri’s rush defense has struggled out of the gate. How does that change this weekend?
Answer: At this point, everyone watching a Missouri football game is watching that defense. That’s where all the questions are coming for defensive coordinator Steve Wilks. Missouri can come out and say all they want to about making people respect them, but they have to do that on the field. We’ve seen it against Central Michigan, Kentucky and now Boston College, those are four games where Missouri has been dashed on the ground.
Q: How would you grade second-year head coach Eli Drinkwitz this season?
A: That’s a hard question just because of Covid-19. Drinkwitz has done a good job with what he has been given. He comes into that situation last year, goes 5-5 in an all-SEC schedule. He did all he could with that first season, 5-5 is impressive and he has built off of it. Where he has been really successful is recruiting. I think he has implemented the system he wants to run, and he’s a great recruiter. I think there’s a little to be desired by losing these coin flip games so I think on the field Mizzou fans would like to see a little more.
Q: Walk me through Connor Bazelak. What challenge does he present the Tennessee secondary?
A: He’s a quarterback with a pretty high floor and a pretty low ceiling. You know what you’re going to get from him. He’s going to be accurate, throw for decent yardage and make the right read most of the time. He’s a good SEC quarterback. Will he win Missouri games that they shouldn’t? I don’t know. You see a little bit of both with him. He’s good at not turning the ball over, and for the most part he has been managing games well this year. I think Bazelak is one of those guys you should respect, but its one of those situation that if Missouri needs to pull a win out of nowhere, finding those crazy moments out of him is going to be a little harder. He’s also not going to lose Missouri this game.
Q: Tough loss to Boston College last week. How well do you expect the Tigers to respond
A: It reminds me of the game last year in Knoxville that ended 35-12 (for Tennessee). You have to remember, Boston College is a pretty good team. They’re 4-0. Missouri is a signature win (for Boston College), but I think Missouri is just frustrated. This is the second SEC game of the year, you look at Missouri coming in and these teams are in a similar area. These games hold that extra importance, it’s a winnable home game for (Missouri).
Q: Tennessee plays fast. How can a Tigers defense that has struggled in the early-going stop this?
A: Missouri’s defense has been good at forcing turnovers and getting takeaways. They’ve allowed a lot of yards, they will allow yards through the air as well. They have been good at rushing the quarterback, making them make rash decisions. Whoever Tennessee's quarterback is, he’s going to be under pressure from this defense. The thing for me – If this game is going to be high scoring, if this is going to go back and forth, I don’t think either team has a defense to write home about. If it will be a game of trading scores, what is Missouri going to do with forced turnovers? Over the course of the game you need to be able to stack points, you need to turn a touchdown into two after, say, a fumble. For Missouri, its finding a way to capitalize, and this game will be all about trying to build separation.