Prior to moving his Tigers to the Southeastern Conference, long-time Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel constructed a SEC football team while competing in the Big 12. First-year Tiger head coach Barry Odom appears to be building a Big 12 team while playing in the SEC.
Kentucky will travel to Columbia, Missouri after winning three out of four conference games with renewed hopes for postseason football.
Let’s take a look:
— Offensive coordinator Josh Heupel brings a wealth of Big 12 experience to the Tigers and leads a wide open attack that puts a great deal of stress on opposing defenses. Missouri’s splits (distance from football and offensive teammates) will be a new challenge for Mark Stoops’ defense.
— Widened receiver and offensive line splits force an abundance of one-on-one matchups and eliminates second level run/pass support. It also restricts opposing defenses from disguising coverages and exposes pending blitzes prior to snap. A significant amount of credit for Kentucky’s defensive resurgence is credited to scheme and Stoops’ ability to overcome personnel weaknesses through structure. Mizzou’s offensive intent circumvents this Kentucky strength. Worrisome.
— Missouri’s 505 total offensive yards per game leads the SEC. It’s 2nd in the league in pass yards per game with 304.
— I’d argue that Mizzou’s run game will be the most pressing concern on Saturday. RB Damarea Crockett is dangerous: 83 carries, 546 yards, 6.6 ypc, 7 TDs, and 78 yards per game. Fellow RB Ish Witter: 102 carries, 460 yards, 4.5 ypc, and 65 yards per game.
— Mizzou’s run game strategy is based off the Run/Pass/Option attack which features a pass off every run play.
— QB Drew Lock is the SEC’s 2nd leading passer: 137-257, 6 INT, 1995 yards, 16 TDs, and 285 yards per game. Lock is completing 53% of his passes.
— WR J’Mon Moore leads the team in receptions: 30 catches, 539 yards, 6 TDs, 77 yards per game.
— Dimetrios Mason is the Tiger’s 2nd leading receiver: 22 catches, 249 yards.
— 2015 saw the Mizzou defense finish the season in typical Gary Pinkel fashion: 2nd in the SEC’s total defense category as it allowed 302 yards per game. 2016 is a much different story. Through seven games the Tigers are giving up 460 yards per game. Scoring defense has also taken on a downward trajectory. Mizzou allowed 16.2 points per game in 2015 (2nd in SEC) but is surrendering 29.7 this season (10th in SEC).
— DE Charles Harris is a 1st Team All SEC performer and is projected as a 1st round NFL Draft selection: 28 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 QB sacks, 4 QB hurries, and 1 forced fumble. Harris is a disruptive edge pass rusher. Cole Mosier and Landon Young will have their hands full on Saturday.
— LB Michael Scherer is Missouri’s irrefutable defensive leader. The senior has started 33 consecutive games and is the Tigers’ on-field play caller. He’s accumulated 53 total tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1 INT, 2 pass breakups, and 2 QB hurries in 2016. Scherer left the MTSU game with a knee injury, and yesterday, it was confirmed he will be out for the season with an ACL injury.
— Yesterday, it was also announced that starting DT Terry Beckner, Jr. is also out for the season with an ACL injury. Starting Safety Thomas Wilson and the Tigers’ INT co-leader CB John Gibson were also injured in a losing effort to Middle Tennessee State last weekend. Wilson and Gibson’s status for Saturday’s game is yet to be determined.
— Starting DE Marcell Frazier was ejected from the MTSU game for a targeting penalty and must sit out a portion of Saturday’s matchup with UK.
— The Mizzou defense was penalized 4 times on 3rd down against MTSU. All 4 penalties extended MTSU offensive drives and can only be interpreted as questionable discipline.
— MTSU beat Mizzou 51-45. The Tigers allowed 300 rush yards, 7.3 yards per carry to Tony Franklin’s Raiders.
HOW UK BEATS MISSOURI
— Kentucky will need to start fast which will be difficult due to an 11:00 a.m. central time kickoff. Mizzou is reeling after a disappointing and sloppy homecoming loss to MTSU. A fast start in front of a predicted suspect crowd could lead to a deflated Missouri football team.
— Mizzou was penalized 13 times for 125 yards in a loss to MTSU. Very un-Missouri like. Kentucky has to press the issue in attempt to force Tiger turnovers and penalties.
— All that leads to Missouri’s vulnerability also makes the Tigers incredibly threatening. How it responds to an embarrassing loss and a disappointing 2-5 start will define the early Barry Odom era in Columbia.
— This will read strangely, but the Cats must force the game into the hands of QB Drew Lock by emphasizing run defense in order to slow RBs Crocket and Witter.
— QB Stephen Johnson’s fumbling tendencies can’t travel to Columbia. Road turnovers are damning.
— Broken record statement forthcoming, Eddie Gran will need to pound the football straight at the Missouri defense with a heavy dose of Boom Williams, JoJo Kemp, and Benny “The Hammer” Snell.
— No way to sugarcoat the obvious: Grant McKinniss’ punting must improve. 34 yards per punt could lead to a loss as UK’s defense will be facing a dangerous and fast-scoring offense. Shortened fields have to be avoided at all costs.
— FINISH has been a commonly used slogan. Kentucky has an opportunity to finish off Missouri. By doing so, UK would have beaten four conference foes that it must surpass in order to climb the SEC ladder: Missouri, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and Miss State.
— FINISH. Mark Stoops and his young Wildcats have a chance to become bowl eligible on the road which would lead to a “House Money” night against Georgia.
— FINISH. The more I analyze this game the more bothersome I become. So much on the line; how will Kentucky respond? Can it seize momentum and take care of business? Will a new-found sense of prosperity inhibit performance? Can the Cats FINISH?
Much more to come on this pivotal road game.