COLUMBIA — Although Saturday's game between Missouri and Tennessee won't get much national attention, it is an important game for both teams.
Both teams come into Saturday's game 4-5, two wins short of the six needed to be eligible to play in a bowl game. With three games left in the season, Saturday's winner would put itself in strong position to become bowl eligible.
Bowl eligibility is an important goal for Tennessee coach Derek Dooley, who has had minimal success since taking over the Volunteers' program before the 2010 season. Tennessee is winless in the Southeastern Conference so far this season and Dooley is rumored to be in danger of losing his job. One SEC coach, Kentucky's Joker Phillips, has already been fired this season.
Despite record, Tennessee offense has been productive
Tennessee has lost all five of its SEC games this year because the defense has struggled to stop teams from scoring points. The Volunteers defensive struggles have overshadowed the team's offense, which has performed well this season.
Last weekend, quarterback Tyler Bray broke the school record for passing yards in a game (previously held by current NFL star Peyton Manning) with 530 against Troy. A lot of people had high expectations for Bray coming into the season, and he has finally started to live up to them after Dooley threatened to bench him two weeks ago. He threw for five touchdowns against Troy, two of 40 yards or more:
Missouri's problems have been opposite of Tennessee's this season. The Tigers' defense held No. 7 Florida to 14 points last week, but the offense struggled mightily, just as it has done all season.
Part of the problem is that Missouri's starting quarterback, James Franklin, has been banged up with multiple injuries. But Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reminds us that the offensive line has also dealt with a lot of injuries and writes that offensive coordinator David Yost should shoulder some of the blame as well.
Sugar Bowl will host the SEC-Big 12 bowl game
On Tuesday, the SEC and Big 12 announced that the Sugar Bowl was selected as the host of the leagues' New Year's Day bowl game. The two leagues announced an agreement last summer to have their top teams play each other in a bowl game.
The Sugar Bowl, which takes place in New Orleans, was selected over the Cotton Bowl, which takes place in Dallas. The SEC has sent one of its top teams to the Sugar Bowl almost every year since 1935.
Alabama and Georgia could clinch divisions Saturday
No. 1 Alabama would clinch the SEC West with a win against No. 15 Texas A&M on Saturday. The Crimson Tide remains undefeated after a narrow win against No. 7 LSU last weekend. An Alabama loss Saturday would keep the race open for at least another week.
No matter what, the SEC East will be decided Saturday. No. 5 Georgia could clinch the division with a win at Auburn, which is 2-7 this season and winless in the SEC. If the Bulldogs lose in a surprise upset, No. 7 Florida would win the division. The Gators finished their SEC schedule at 7-1 last week.
Supervising editor is Frank Russell.