Drew Lock will try to add to his season total of 31 touchdown passes when Missouri hosts Tennessee on Saturday night. (File)

By Spencer Gleason

Coming off of their first conference win this season, the Missouri Tigers enter their final home game on Saturday against the Tennessee Volunteers riding a three-game winning streak.

It is the second of four SEC games to end the regular season and will be televised on the SEC Network, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Beyond winning three consecutive games for the first time in two years, the Tigers are making a statement in doing so. Last week they handed Florida its worst loss against an unranked opponent since 1936, winning by 29 points, after they scored a combined 120 points in non-conference wins against Idaho and UConn. Missouri’s defense has held opponents to an average of 16.3 points in those three wins.

“They’re a team that’s playing with a lot of momentum, a lot of passion, a lot of energy,” Tennessee head coach Butch Jones said.

Missouri seems to be heading in a positive direction as they have flipped the script on their season, putting together the winning streak after losing five consecutive games. Meanwhile, the Vols have headed the other way.

All of Tennessee’s losses have come against SEC teams. After winning three of the first four games this season, Tennessee has lost four of the last five, averaging only 12.4 points in conference games this year.

Injuries have plagued Tennessee’s quarterback position. As of Friday, Jones had yet to name a starting quarterback for Saturday’s game in Columbia.

Opening –week starter Quinten Dormady was lost for the season with a shoulder injury after six games and freshman Jarrett Guarantano suffered an ankle injury last week. Freshman Will McBride may make his first career start Saturday. He was one-for-eight passing in his season debut last week, taking over for Guarantano against Southern Mississippi.

Missouri head coach Barry Odom said that his Tigers’ defense is preparing for both Guarantano and McBride.

“I expect both of them to be ready and go play,” he said.

Missouri’s defense has turned the intensity up a notch during the three-game winning streak. They have 29 tackles for a loss during this stretch and now rank second in the SEC in that category with 56 takedowns in the backfield. They had 27 tackles for a loss in the previous six games.

“They’re playing as a unit,” Jones said of Missouri. “I think they’re playing with a lot of confidence. I think that’s what winning does.”

The Tigers’ defense will have to keep an eye on Tennessee running backs John Kelly and Ty Chandler. Both are threats in the passing and running game. Kelly in ninth in the SEC with 694 rushing yards on 145 carries and has 27 receptions for 250 yards. Chandler averages 4.2 yards per carry.

“They’re running extremely well,” Odom said. “They do a good job on their zone scheme. As soon as they see any daylight at all, they get north and south and they look like they run angry. So they’re good players. And then they have big play wide receivers and we’ll have to do a great job matching them up.”

Offensively, the Tigers will have to beat Tennessee’s secondary. The Vols rank fourth nationally in passing defense, allowing 150 yards per game. Missouri’s aerial assault checks in at 14th nationally, with 314.9 yards per game.

Tigers’ quarterback Drew Lock has had an instinctive ability to find the open receiver this season and has been red hot over his last six games, completing 65.8 percent of his pass attempts. He has 31 touchdown passes this year, which leads the country, and he now has more touchdown passes through nine games than any other SEC quarterback in the last 15 seasons.

“He has moxie; he has swagger,” Jones said of Lock’s performance. “But when you look at the physical attributes – from the stature, to the ability to staying in the pocket, the ability to make plays with his legs when the play breaks down and then just a quick release and he can make all the throws – he’s very impressive on video. He’s going to play for a long time. He’s going to play for a long time on Sundays.”

The Tigers own the overall record between the two teams, winning three of the five contests, but Tennessee has won the last two, including a 63-37 win last year in Knoxville.