Scoring a touchdown on Missouri is almost as rare as Missouri's offense scoring a touchdown itself. The Tigers have limited opponents to just 17 total touchdowns this season, tied for first in the SEC, and have shut down opposing offenses to average just 14 points a game.
Mizzou has given up just eight plays of 30 yards or more in 2015, the only SEC team that's in single digits in that category. Tennessee knows what type of buzz saw it's lining up against Saturday, and the offense has stressed patience in its preparation.
"They've stopped offenses very well," left tackle Kyler Kerbyson said. "That's a huge thing that we're preparing for. We've just got to be patient. It's not going to come right away. Maybe we get a good drive in the third quarter and that's what we need. We've just got to be patient and just keep plugging away."
The Tigers' stout defense, led by an aggressive front four that has notched 26 sacks on the season and has been one of the best units in the country at stopping big plays.
"Really just how they play their defense," wide receiver Josh Malone said. "They don't let many people get behind them and really how they mix up their coverages and how good they are with their re-routing and all that. They're a very solid defense."
Butch Jones was even less subtle, calling Mizzou one of his team's "stiffest challenge" to date. The Tigers are the No. 5 scoring defense in the country and No. 3 in the SEC in total defense through ten games.
"I think they're a complete defense," Jones said. "When you look at their stats, some defenses are the top in this category, the top in that category, but they're basically tops in every single defensive category and they're tough and physical. It's going to be a challenge."
Between the student protests on campus and Missouri coach Gary Pinkel coaching in his last game, Tennessee will enter an environment in Columbia that could be overwhelming. To combat the emotion swirling throughout the Vols' game with Mizzou Saturday, Jones understands the need to create big splash plays early to take the crowd out of it.
"We are responsible, and you are responsible, for creating our own momentum," Butch Jones said. "Obviously you have to have some momentum plays early, but I think a lot of times too you have to withstand that. You have to just never look at the scoreboard and just keep playing and just stay focused on the process."
Jones is adamant his team will be able to overcome the electric atmosphere by winning their individual matchups and not allowing the things out of their control to influence their on-field play.
"Football comes down to winning your one-on-one matchups," Jones said. "Football is a game of one-on-one matchups and really being focused on the task at hand. Really, we're focused on the way we prepare and the way we play, and if you do that, things work out for you. If you get caught up in all the distractions and the emotion of the game and all the things going on outside of it, you have a lack of focus. When you have a lack of focus, you're going to turn the ball over and you're going to give up big plays."
Like A Rock
On an offensive line wrecked by instability this season due to injuries, left tackle Kyler Kerbyson has proven to be the one constant in a sea of shifting parts. Kerbyson is the only offensive lineman on the team who's started every game this season at the same position and the redshirt senior has become the anchor of the unit.
"The best thing I can say about Kyler Kerbyson is he's a rock of stability," Jones said. "He's been very, very consistent each and every day, from his approach on practice to his approach on game day. He's worked exceptionally hard. He's worked on his technique, his pad level, his strength. I love everything about him."