Maybe this WhatIfSports prediction engine isn’t so crazy after all. The big computer churned out its week eight predictions last time, and had Georgia winning 25-12 in Commonwealth Stadium. The Bulldogs actually won the game 29-24, with the Cats playing the No. 11 ranked team tightly throughout. It was a much different outcome than the weeks prior against the gauntlet of Florida, South Carolina and others. Maybe Kentucky is figuring something out, maybe the Cats just always play Georgia well, or maybe it’s just dumb luck. Whatever it is, hopefully we see more this week against Missouri.
Upon first glance in the box score, you see quarterback Aaron Murray torched the Cats secondary to the tune of 427 yards and four touchdowns. Not good. But look closer and you see the run defense held the Bulldogs to 77 yards on the ground on 32 attempts — so they were certainly trying to run the ball. Georgia came into the day averaging 230 rushing yards per game.
If there ever were a winnable SEC game on the schedule, this would be the one. The Tigers are still searching for their first conference win as a member of the Southeastern Conference, and the Cats are looking for their first of the season. Something’s got to give. With the game on the road, WIS predicts a 20-15 Missouri victory, and gives the Cats just a 30.2% chance of victory. Missouri is a 14-point favorite in Vegas.
Last week you had to wonder how Joker Phillips would rally his team following a 49-7 dismantling in Fayetteville, Arkansas the game before. Now you have to wonder how his team will respond following a close game that they “woulda, shoulda, coulda” had.
WhatIfSports projects a fairly even matchup on both sides — and evenly matched is how both teams appear on paper right now. First downs, third down efficiency, rushing yards, passing yards, sacks, punts, penalties and time of possession are all very close for Kentucky and Missouri respectively.
After missing the last two games with a bummed ankle, Kentucky fans will get to see quarterback sensation Patrick Towles back at work. On the other side, the Tigers will be without their starting quarterback James Franklin, so the spread offense gets a lot less scary for the Cats defense than it otherwise would be. Traditionally, a spread is the kryptonite of Kentucky’s defense, so how they respond to a weakened unit will tell us plenty about where the attitudes of this team are.
It would be easy for this team to lay down at 1-7, now eliminated from bowl contention with still a handful of games remaining. Fan support is waning, if not plummeting, and more and more people are calling for your coach’s head. I do not envy how the Kentucky football players fell right now. So how will this team react?
The loser of this game will remain firmly at the bottom of the conference, with the company of Auburn and Tennessee. The winner… well it doesn’t gain much, but at least you won’t move on with a goose egg.