Let’s be honest, the most surprising recent winning streak for Kentucky football wasn’t the five-year run against South Carolina. UK was clearly superior in most of those games. It’s the four-year run against Missouri. Last time around, it took a brilliant final drive from an offense that had done nothing all day to win in Columbia. The year before, it took a lucky break when Josh Allen raked the ball away from a senile-looking official as the clock ticked down to all but assure a UK victory.
Kentucky’s football history is one of bad luck and bad breaks. But against Missouri, the Cats have had luck on their side.
Can that continue Saturday, when 3-4 Kentucky hosts 5-2 Missouri? Vegas says the Wildcats are about a 10-point underdog. This Missouri team is full of firepower, but also is prone to lapses in concentration, particularly on the road, where they have already lost to Wyoming and Vanderbilt. If Kentucky could pull off an upset, it would place the Wildcats in excellent position for a November that could see them win three or four games. If not, the race to six wins will be the focus of the rest of the year.
The Tigers are both very talented and have been fortunate to play an incredibly weak early schedule. After Drew Lock headed to the NFL, Missouri was fortunate to grab Clemson transfer Kelly Bryant, who has been a solid replacement under center. Bryant has passed for 1,715 yards and 13 touchdowns, and is also capable on the ground. So is speedy back Larry Rountree, who has 586 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. In addition, tight end Albert Okwuegbunam is one of the best players in the SEC, and is a major red-zone threat.
Defensively, Missouri allows just 17 points and 270 yards per game. That said, Ole Miss is probably the best offense the Tigers have seen this season. They also lost all-SEC linebacker Cale Garrett for the year. Tucker McCann is both punter and kicker for Mizzou, and he has missed a few easy kicks this year.
Kentucky comes in off a brutally ugly offensive performance. The second chapter in the Bowden at QB experiment did not turn out as well as the first, as UK could not even complete a pass until the game’s final minutes. The defense held Georgia scoreless for two and a half quarters, and surrendered under 300 yards for the game. But all for naught in a 21-0 defeat.
Kentucky’s defense has steadily improved over the course of the season, but has had to carry way too much weight without a legitimate threat at quarterback. Can Sawyer Smith return this week to at least help Bowden? The guess here is that UK saves him for after the bye week next week. If so, it’s hard to see UK finding enough firepower to spring the upset.
Missouri 24, Kentucky 13
Other SEC Predictions:
LSU 42, Auburn 24
Texas A&M 38, Mississippi State 24
South Carolina 31, Tennessee 21
Alabama 38, Arkansas 6
Joe Cox is contributing editor for KySportsStyle.com Magazine. He grew up in Letcher County and Bell County and has written eight books. His most recent, "A Fine Team Man: Jackie Robinson and the Lives He Changed," was released in February 2019 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