I’m not sure Missouri gets enough credit for what they have accomplished over the last 2 years in the SEC. For a program that is basically brand new to the SEC to come in and win their division 2 straight years, all while being underdogs much of the time, is really an under-appreciated accomplishment. Maybe it’s absurd to think, but I don’t really see much of a difference between the potential of Missouri and Kentucky. Point being, why can’t UK do the same thing? And how exactly did Missouri do that? 4 key points that I would like to highlight:
1. RECRUITING: NOT AS IMPORTANT AS YOU THINK
-Is recruiting important? Of course it is. But at the same time, Missouri proved that you don’t have to recruit that great to have great success. Just look at the recruiting classes that would have comprised the 2 SEC East champions in comparison to the other SEC teams. As you will see, they were not exactly killing it in the rankings:
2009: 12th (Kentucky: 13th)
2010: 9th (Kentucky: 13th)
2011: 12th (Kentucky: 13th)
2012: 11th (Kentucky: 14th)
2013: 14th (Kentucky: 13th)
2014: 12th (Kentucky: 9th)
2. DOING WORK ON THE ROAD
-Everyone always emphasizes that you must defend your home field. But what Missouri has done is instead defend their opponent’s field. Missouri has not lost an SEC road game in the past 2 years, while losing twice in Columbia. Kentucky had lost 21 consecutive SEC road games before winning against South Carolina this year. Nonetheless, Kentucky has NEVER gone undefeated in the SEC on the road since the league expanded. If UK ever really wants to threaten winning the SEC, they’ve got to be better on the road.
3. DEFENSE ACTUALLY DOES WIN CHAMPIONSHIPS
-Missouri has only given up more than 30 points in 1 SEC game over the last 2 years. They’ve held their SEC opponent to under 20 points in 9 of 16 games. That’s great defense. It’s not entirely fair to compare that to Kentucky over the last 2 years since UK was in rebuild mode, but if UK wants to seriously compete in that division, they likely need to start on the defensive end of the ball. With 22 and 14 points given up respectively in their first 2 games, that appears to be a good start for the Cats.
4. CATCH TEAMS WHEN THEY ARE DOWN
-Here is where Kentucky blew a huge chance last week. Florida is down from where they normally are. And UK let them slip right through their fingers, honestly for a 2nd straight year. South Carolina is also down and UK took advantage over the last 2 years. UT has been rebuilding Vanderbilt is in the dumps. UGA is still the big dog in the SEC but they always seem to blow 1-2 games they shouldn’t in conference, part of the reason Mizzou has been able to slip in there. Kentucky has to take advantage of these moments. They did against USC and didn’t against Florida. Missouri is, in theory, worse than they have been. Can UK take advantage of that or not?