Missouri is a dangerous opponent with a rising star quarterback who will be playing against the Wildcats with a plethora of confidence following a win over LSU. The timing and opponent’s unpredictability equal a dangerous matchup for the Cats. Let’s take a look on how UK leaves Columbia with a 3-2 record.
Effectively throw the football. Yes, throw the football. Kentucky is 14th in the SEC, averaging 142 yards per game. Mizzou is allowing 307 yards a contest. Terry Wilson is completing 65% of his passes and will have opportunities to complete a higher number of passes on Saturday. The Cats need to take advantage of the Tiger pass defense.
Rush for 200 yards. Missouri is allowing 130.7 yards per game. Opponents are averaging 3.7 yards per carry. The Cats will face a dynamic linebacker in Nick Bolton who has accumulated 36 stops in 2020. The second half of the Tennessee game is the true personality of Eddie Gran’s offense. More of the same will be imperative vs. Mizzou.
Own Time of Possession. This category has been irrelevant at times in 2020 due to the higher than normal number of explosive plays. Kentucky counters this trend by being ranked 1st in the SEC in Opponent Long Scrimmage Plays. So, keeping the Mizzou offense on the sideline and living in the S.L.O.P. (Sustained, Long, Offensive, Possessions) will be crucial for a win.
No turnovers. Limiting Tiger offensive possessions will be of the upmost importance. A 45-point explosion against the defending national champions highlighted Missouri’s new, fast-paced offense. UK is +4 in Turnover Margin. In this game, every drive will count.
Win the Red Zone. Missouri has scored four touchdowns out of seven trips inside the 20 yard-line for an average of 57%. Its opponents have found pay dirt on twelve out of fifteen attempts or 80%. UK will need six points, not three when given the opportunity to score.
Don’t bite on flashy lures. Much like Auburn, facing Mizzou is like bass fishing. The Tiger offense will throw out many flashy lures hoping that the Cats will bite. This includes trickery, motions, formations, flea flickers, reverses, and etc. Staying true to assignment will be critical for the Cat defenders. This Missouri offense is dangerous and capable. Brad White has his hands full preparing for a myriad of potential looks.
Limit Mizzou to 120 rush yards. Much of the pregame discussion will be focused on QB Connor Bazelak and the Tiger passing attack. But, its running game is a vital key for success. UM is averaging 125 yards on the ground and converting 46% on 3rd down. UK is allowing just 31% on 3rd down which sets up for a critical chess game on Saturday. RB Larry Roundtree is a proven veteran and is averaging 90 yards per game. He rushed for 121 yards vs. LSU. Speedster Tyler Badie is explosive and poses a home-run threat.
Don’t get beat deep. Connor Bazelak is averaging 14 yards per completion. The Tigers are throwing for 292 yards per game. I can’t emphasize enough how impressed I am with the young signal caller. His numbers vs. LSU: 29/34 (85%), 406 yards, and 4 TDs. Through standard passing and trick plays, Mizzou likes to strike deep and for points. WR Jalen Knox is the team’s leading pass catcher with 14 receptions and 11 yards per grab. Bazelak is also efficient in checking down if the home-run ball is covered. RB Tyler Badie is averaging 21 yards per catch and is a favorite target out of the backfield.
Communicate. Mizzou will employ an overabundance of formations, motions, bunch sets, personnel groupings, and shifts prior to the snap of the football. Alignment and assignment discipline are effective manners in defensing an offense that relies on deception and misdirection.
Influence the quarterback. Bazelak will find an open receiver if given time. Mizzou’s formations and personnel groupings could prevent blitzes by forcing outside linebackers into pass defense. The Wildcat defensive line will need to be active and precise in its pass rush.
Kick the football out of the end zone. Mizzou kickoff returners are fast and dangerous.
No critical errors. This refers back to limiting Missouri offensive possessions. The Cats can’t afford to have a bad special teams day in Columbia.
Max be Max. Win the field position game.
WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?
Redshirt freshman quarterback Connor Bazelak is accurate, confident, and has a quick release. He’s a rising star in the SEC and was impressive in the Tigers’ 45-41 win over LSU. It should be noted that Mizzou was without its top two receivers in that game which makes his performance even more notable. He’s completing 70% of his passes and has a dangerous group of pass catchers led by Virginia Tech grad-transfer Damon Hazelton and Jalen Knox. Bazelak presents a unique look for the Kentucky defense. He combines the elusiveness of Auburn QB Bo Nix with the precision of Ole Miss’ Matt Corral.
Linebacker Nick Bolton is active and will be one of the better players at his position that UK will face in 2020. Opponents have been successful throwing the football against the Tigers. The Mizzou defense is giving up 38 points per game, scoring opportunities will be there for the Cats. Eddie Gran’s unit will need to register touchdowns in the Red Zone.
This game scares me. Missouri is a dangerous opponent and will be seeking an opportunity to make a statement against one of the SEC’s top defenses. The Cats cannot rest on their Beer Barrel laurels and must take the Tigers seriously. I’ve said it many times in this post, but I’ll say it again. QB Connor Bazelak is going to be a very good QB in this league and poses a clear and present danger to the Wildcat secondary. A UK win would set up another Georgia matchup with potential East implications. All signs point to a trap game for the Cats.