JOE COX: No. 12 Wildcats Still Struggling For Respect
Three certainties in life are death, taxes, and Kentucky football getting disrespected.
If that seems a little harsh, consider the facts. A team that leads the SEC East with a 4-1 conference mark and a 6-1 overall mark and is ranked 12th in the nation visits a team that is last in the SEC East with an 0-3 conference mark. And Kentucky is a touchdown underdog.
Perceptions obviously mean plenty in college football.
The perception is that Missouri, with big-armed NFL prospect Drew Lock at QB, is dangerous offensively. That they can score on anybody. That they’re tough and talented and look like a better team than Kentucky.
Kentucky punts and defends and passes for 18 yards. Sure, Benny Snell is good, but he can’t do this alone. Can he?
Well, no, he can’t.
But it is worth noting that Lock’s big arm hasn’t led Missouri into the top 25. That Kentucky is 20-11 since the first time they handed the football to Benny Snell. That Snell has rushed for over 300 yards in beating Missouri in each of the past two seasons. That Missouri’s offense is good, but it’s not nationally ranked—but UK’s defense is.
Frankly, Vegas is favoring the wrong team. Perception doesn’t win games.
The talk about Mizzou starts and ends with QB Lock, who has eclipsed 10,000 passing yards in his career and is nearing 100 touchdown passes. Thing is that Lock feasts on bad competition. His numbers are brilliant against bad teams or in good situations. When Mizzou is ahead this year, Lock has thrown for almost 1,300 yards, 14 touchdowns and just one interception. When they’re behind, he is completing less than half of his passes, averages about five yards per attempt, and has two touchdowns and five interceptions.
Albert Okwuegbunam is a great tight end who has 37 catches on the year for 400 yards and five touchdowns. Mizzou has a solid running game with Larry Rountree III (549 rushing yards) and Damarea Crockett (417 rushing yards).
Defensively, Mizzou is very ho-hum. They are 12th in the conference in scoring defense and 13th in yardage allowed. They are actually last in the conference in pass defense.
But can Kentucky pass the ball? Last week ugly win yielded nine passing attempts for 18 yards. Mark Stoops is talking about playing one or more other QBs this week, but time will tell.
Benny Snell’s 868 rushing yards lead the conference, and he enters this game hoping to reach his third 1,000-yard season as a Wildcat.
Defensively, Josh Allen leads the SEC in tackles for loss and his eight sacks is just off the league lead. Kentucky’s secondary has come up with seven interceptions this year, while Missouri has only four.
Backup kicker Chance Poore could be pivotal, as he is expected to see his first action of the season.
At the end of the day, perception is that Kentucky’s offense is too limited. It says here that Eddie Gran has a handful of tricks he’s kept us his sleeve. He’ll find them now.
UK 24, Missouri 22
Other SEC Predictions
Georgia 27, Florida 21
Vanderbilt 34, Arkansas 24
Texas A&M 27, Mississippi State 24
South Carolina 38, Tennessee 21
Joe Cox is contributing editor for KySportsStyle.com Magazine. He grew up in Letcher County and Bell County, and has written seven books, with the eighth to come in 2019. His most recent, "The Immaculate Inning," was released in February 2018 and can be ordered 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.