JOE COX: Should We Expect Offensive Fireworks Against Missouri Saturday Night?
For a struggling Kentucky offense, Saturday’s conference matchup against the Missouri Tigers (7:30 p.m., SEC Network) could be just what the doctor ordered. UK totaled just 228 yards of total offense last week in defeating Eastern Michigan and the Cats haven’t yet cracked 30 points in a game this season. Meanwhile, the Missouri defense hasn’t held an opponent to under 31 points this year. Something has got to give.
UK is favored by around 10 points again what is a clear candidate for the worst team in the SEC for a second straight season. Last year on the road, Kentucky jumped out to a 35-7 lead before coasting home with a 35-21 victory that wasn’t as close as the score. Can this year’s 1-3 Missouri team fare any better in Lexington?
Who They Are
For a Missouri team that forged a defensive identity under coach Pinkel, it’s been an odd couple of years since he retired. The Tigers had been a factor in the East since their inclusion in the league, but under Barry Odom (who was Pinkel’s defensive coordinator at the end of his tenure), the defense has been hideous.
Offensively, Mizzou relies on a passing attack brought in by offensive coordinator Josh Heupel. The problem is that the offense tends to rack up yards and points against poor competition (QB Drew Lock threw for over 500 yards and Missouri scored 72 against FCS Missouri State), and then bog down against even decent teams (13 points against South Carolina and three against Purdue).
Mizzou averages 445 yards per game. Players to watch include sophomore RB Damarea Crockett, who has 375 rushing yards so far this season and averages 6.4 yards per carry. Lock has passed for 1,115 yards and 10 touchdowns, but he has also completed under 53 percent of his throws and thrown six interceptions. Receiver J’Mon Moore was a 1,000-yard receiver last season and has 312 yards so far this year, but is inconsistent.
Defensively, there’s not much to say. Missouri does have nine sacks and has allowed only four. The leading tackler is linebacker Cale Garrett who has 30 stops for the year. Missouri has forced only three turnovers this season, and their minus 9 ratio (meaning they have given away a dozen turnovers) is horrific.
In special teams, kicker Tucker McCann has been shaky, but punter Corey Fatoney is one of the best in the league. Dimetrio Mason was a dangerous kick returner, but he’s no longer on the team.
Where Kentucky Is
Frankly, UK needs a game where they don’t let the opponent stick around until the last play. If the Wildcats are going to have a successful second half of the season, they have to start putting the pedal to the metal once a few things go right.
The Kentucky offensive line was awful last week, and simply has to improve. Whether it’s finding the right combination of players or implementing the right play calls, this game is an easy chance for the Wildcats to get back some of their offensive mojo. If they don’t do it, this could become a long season.
Kentucky 41, Missouri 20
Other SEC Predictions
Who else do I like in the SEC on Saturday? Glad you asked…
Auburn 42, Ole Miss 10
Georgia 24, Vanderbilt 17
LSU 28, Florida 27
South Carolina 24, Arkansas 21
Alabama 49, Texas A&M 10
Joe Cox is contributing editor for KySportsStyle.com Magazine. He grew up in Letcher County and Bell County, and has written five books. His most recent, Almost Perfect (a study of baseball pitchers’ near-miss attempts at perfect games) is available on Amazon or at many local bookstores. Joe is an attorney and lives in Logan County with his wife and children. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.