In a surprise to many, the Kentucky defense has become the strength of the team, allowing just 18.8 points on average this year (28th in the country). The Cats’ run defense has improved dramatically under new defensive line coach Derrick Leblanc, new linebackers coach Dean Hood, and first year defensive coordinator Matt House.
The Missouri offense has not scored more than 14 points in its last three games (South Carolina, Purdue, and Auburn) but the Tigers do have some firepower that could cause trouble in tonight’s game.
Here’s what the Kentucky defense must do to contain the Tigers tonight:
1. Play Big on First Down
When facing an offense like Missouri that likes to run its offense at a fast pace, it is essential to force 2nd&9, 3rd&7 scenarios. It forces their offense to rely less on their tempo and more on their actual offense. Putting them in obvious passing situations on third&long also gives the Blitz Bros a chance to get after the quarterback. Josh Allen and Denzil Ware have combined for 8 sacks in five games.
2. Take Away Damarea Crockett
Crockett is Missouri’s best offensive player as the sophomore running back is trying to match his production as a freshman when he rushed for 1,062 yards and 10 touchdowns. Through 5 games Kentucky ranks 3rd in the nation in run defense allowing just 74 yards per game, a statistic that no one in the BBN would have believed to be true prior to this season. It will be more difficult today as Missouri’s tempo prevents the Kentucky coaches from making substitutions during a drive. Look for big performances from Adrian Middleton, TJ Carter, Courtney Love, and Eli Brown to slow down Crockett.
3. Force Turnovers
The Kentucky defense has forced turnovers at an elite rate this season. The Cats are ranked 15th in the nation with 11 forced turnovers this season. On the other side of the ball, Missouri is not good at taking care of the football. They have lost 6 fumbles and thrown 6 interceptions in five games for a -9 turnover margin. Winning the turnover battle is important in every football game, but this is especially true in the SEC. Whoever forces the most mistakes will likely win the football game.