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Tennessee Volunteers vs. Missouri Tigers Preview and Prediction

Gary Pinkel

Gary Pinkel

Tennessee enters Saturday's game at Missouri with the most momentum it's had in years. Butch Jones' Volunteers have won three consecutive games — including four of their last five — and have three conference wins, which matches their best finish of the 2010s.

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Missouri is a program riding a wave of emotions. Last Friday, head coach Gary Pinkel announced he will resign at the end of the 2015 season after revealing that he was diagnosed with lymphoma in May.

Pinkel's announcement came one week after Missouri players decided to boycott last Saturday's game against BYU unless the university president Tom Wolfe resigned. The coach — as well as Missouri's governor — supported his players and the boycott ended less than 48 hours later after Wolfe stepped down.

The Tigers rallied to capture an upset win against BYU just hours after their coach's announcement and look to find similar success in Pinkel's final home. Will Missouri be successful or will Tennessee continue its winning streak en route to its best finish since 2007?

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Tennessee at Missouri

Kickoff: 7:15 p.m. ET (Saturday)


Spread: Tennessee -8.5

Three Things to Watch

1. Gary Pinkel's farewell at Faurot Field

It's no secret that Pinkel has the admiration of his roster. The Tigers celebrated last week's win by circling around their coach and chanting "G-P, G-P" in what is now known as the "GP Dance."

The only thing that would top Saturday's celebration would be to send Pinkel — the program's all-time winningest coach — out with a victory in his final home game. Given the Tigers' struggles in 2015, a win at home would be the perfect ending to a decorated career for the reigning SEC Coach of the Year.

2. Will Tennessee earn its first victory against Mizzou in conference play?
Missouri is undefeated in three prior matchups against Tennessee since joining the SEC. Granted, the last two matchup featured Tigers teams who won back-to-back SEC East division championships and the first featured a Vols team whose coach was fired just eight days later.

But Saturday's game features two programs heading in different directions. Tennessee seems to finally be on the rise after years of rebuilding while Missouri is far from the division-winning program we saw the past two seasons.

3. Will Tennessee earn a convincing win against a struggling opponent?
Even in victory, the Vols didn't look convincing against inferior competition in their past two games. Tennessee defeated South Carolina — the worst team in the SEC — by three points despite a 14-point lead at halftime.

The Vols also looked underwhelming on offense against North Texas last week, despite shutting out the Mean Green 24-0. Tennessee is favored by more than a touchdown leading up to Saturday's game and needs to prove that it is capable of capturing a convincing win against a team that has lost four of its last five games.

Final Analysis

Missouri should have enough of an emotional jolt to make Saturday's game competitive. However, pending another monumental collapse — which always seems possible — Tennessee should earn its seventh win of the season and take another step toward finishing in second place in the SEC East — its best finish since 2007.

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Prediction: Tennessee 24, Missouri 17

— Written by Jason Hall, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and works for Fox Sports Florida. Follow him on Twitter @jasonhallFSN.