Missouri Versus Kentucky Preview
After stepping out of conference for a week the Kentucky Wildcats return to league play on Saturday when they host Missouri. A win against the Tigers will put Mark Stoops‘ club one win away from bowl eligibility for a second straight year. Before we get into the Missouri Versus Kentucky Preview let’s take a look back at the game against Eastern Michigan. In addition we are going to look at what is becoming a dangerous trend for the 2017 Wildcats.
Playing Down To Their Competition
In what is seemingly the norm this season Kentucky struggled again on offense then relied on defense to pull out a 24-20 win. The Wildcats only mustered 228 yards of total offense against the 15th ranked defense in college football. EMU forced a fumble on the game’s first play leading to a touchdown and sacked Stephen Johnson five times.
The Eagles held the Wildcats to season lows of 53 yards rushing and 175 yards passing. Hard as it is to believe, the Kentucky front line got dominated by a Mid-American Conference school.
Following the game, many of the Kentucky players and coaching staff said they “overlooked” the Eagles. That statement is difficult to comprehend from a program that has trouble wining games consistently. On Monday’s SEC teleconference Stoops amended those comments, saying “it was an overblown narrative.” He added the players “were crushed by the loss to Florida.”
Fourth Quarter Troubles
A disturbing trend has emerged this season in addition to the struggles on offense. With a couple of exceptions, Eddie Gran’s offense has done little final stanza. Kentucky’s conservative ball control late in games leaves lots to be desired.
Last week against Eastern Michigan, Kentucky only gained 12 yards on 14 plays and nearly blew another fourth quarter lead. If you look at the season as a whole this has been the norm.
Kentucky gained 47 yards and scored no points during the fourth quarter of the Southern Mississippi game. The Cats got 107 yards and 10 points in the fourth quarter against Eastern Kentucky but only led by one point and could not afford to be conservative.
The Cats top performance came against South Carolina when they got 121 yards in the fourth quarter. However that performance doesn’t look nearly as good considering it only led to two field goals. A large part of the 31st consecutive loss to Florida was due to a horrible fourth quarter. After taking a 27-14 lead early in the fourth quarter, Kentucky’s offense totally collapsed. Through the remainder of the game, the Wildcats gained only 47 yards and scored no points.
The fourth quarter offensive futility has to be corrected as Kentucky heads into the meat of the SEC schedule.
Scouting The Tigers
Missouri comes into Saturday with a 1-3 record and a week off to prepare for Kentucky. Barry Odom‘s club got off to a hot start rolling up 72 points in a week one win against Missouri State. However, the Tigers have failed to score more than 14 in their last three games, all losses.
The Tigers offense starts with junior quarterback Drew Lock. Through four games, Lock has thrown for 1,115 yards with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions. His stats are down a bit from 2016 but he has the ability to throw for a touchdown at any time.
Sophomore Damarea Crockett handles the running back duties for Missouri. Through four games Crockett has 375 yards rushing and two touchdowns. However, 202 of those yards came in the first game against Missouri State. For whatever reason the Tigers’ offense is not clicking like it did a season ago. They rank third in the SEC at 445 yards per game but only 10th in scoring with 25.
For a second straight season Odom’s defense has been horrible. Missouri currently ranks last in the SEC giving up 452 yards per game and 40 points. They allowed 43 in the win against FCS Missouri State and two weeks ago Auburn hung 51 on them. He fired defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross after the season’s second game, a 31-13 loss to South Carolina.
Who Wins On Saturday?
It’s prediction time for the Missouri Versus Kentucky Preview here at Last Word On College Football. If ever there was a game for the Wildcat offense to break through this would be it. The Cats have yet to score more than 27 points this season after scoring at least that many seven times in 2016.
As they have done all year, look for Kentucky to try to establish the run with Benjamin Snell Jr. and Sihiem King. If that happens they can stretch the field and Johnson will be able to look for C.J. Conrad and Garrett Johnson. A win in this game sends the Cats to a 5-1 mark heading into a much needed week off. Missouri has lost three straight coming off a bye week and after Saturday it will be four.
Kentucky 31 Missouri 20
Thanks for checking out the Missouri Versus Kentucky Preview and all the other great content here at Last Word On College Football. Next week we will review the first half of the Wildcat season and look ahead to the second half.