Coming off a bye week, Mizzou will look to get its first win against an SEC opponent since joining the conference as they host the Wildcats on their 101st Homecoming. Mizzou has struggled so far in their new conference and will be playing without their dual-threat starting QB James Franklin. The most even matchup Kentucky has had in the SEC so far, the only thing keeping me from easily picking the Cats to win is the fact that it is a road game on Homecoming.
As expected, RS FR Corbin Berkstresser struggled in his first start against Alabama replacing James Franklin at QB. Berkstresser threw 2 interceptions in the rainy game while only completing 41% of his passes. The Wildcats secondary unit can finally take a breath after facing elite passing offenses the past 3 weeks.
The Tigers will be attempting to do what UK did well last week: control time of possession by establishing a running game, while simultaneously taking pressure off of an inexperienced QB. The featured back SR Kendial Lawrence is averaging 5.5 yards per carry (considering he only had 39 yards against Alabama, that’s a great average) while leading the team in rushing. He splits time with the athletic SO Marcus Murphy. Murphy does a little bit of everything for the Tigers and is most efficient in the return game with 4 total return TDs on the year. Normally I’d be worried, but Landon Foster and the punt team have successfully neutralized the opposing teams’ special teams unit each week.
Bottom Line: The UK defense should be foaming at the mouth to get a shot at the unproven Mizzou QB. Last week they showed us that they can effectively stop the run and get pressure on the QB. If they can force 2 turnovers or more, Kentucky should be able to get the W.
Most top tacklers on a team come from the linebacking or secondary core, however DT Sheldon Richardson leads the Tiger defense with 52 tackles on the year. He leads a defense that is 4th in the nation in tackles for loss with 8.4 a game. Their high pressure defense will not back off against Kentucky. We all hate screens and draws, but both will be effective against a defense that quickly gets into the backfield.
JR CB EJ Gaines is their most athletic defender in the secondary. His sophomore campaign earned him All-Big 12 honors (we know how many great defenders there are in the Big 12) and has carried it over to this season as the SEC’s 7th best pass blocker. Expect to see #31 not only defending WRs, but making plays in the backfield.
Bottom Line: Kentucky’s offense excelled for the first under backup QBs last week. The exceptional running game caught UGA off guard last Saturday. If the Cats can maintain a presence in the running game and keep pressure off of the QB we could very well see a first win in the SEC. My score is UK with the win 27-24.