Last week, Kentucky won in Knoxville for the first time in 36 years. To keep the program on path for a solid season in 2020, they have to follow up by doing what they’ve done routinely now—beat Missouri. Five consecutive seasons have included Wildcat wins at Mizzou—none more dramatic than 2018, when Kentucky rallied from two scores down in the fourth quarter to win the game on an untimed down with a two-yard scoring pass from Terry Wilson to C.J. Conrad. In many ways, it was the most unlikely Kentucky win in a series of them from Mark Stoops’ team. Kentucky, the conventional wisdom went, had always found a way to lose.
Kentucky also hasn’t historically had a run of dominance over its fellow SEC foes. But the Wildcats stand at five straight wins over the Tigers—tying the UK streak over South Carolina that ended last season for the longest non-Vandy SEC winning streak for UK over a single opponent. Can it continue?
On Saturday, the 1-2 Tigers will host Kentucky complete with a new identity and an impressive win (SEC Network, 4 p.m. ET). Missouri was off last week, due to SEC COVID-19 issues, but in their previous game, they beat LSU. Mizzou won that game largely due to the play of freshman QB Connor Bazelak, who passed for 406 yards and three scores in his first start at Missouri. Leading 45-41, the Missouri defense also made one big stop—keeping LSU out of the end zone on four plays starting with 1st and goal at the UM 2.
Bazelak and running back Larry Rountree give the Tigers some legitimate offensive weapons. That said, Missouri scored only 12 points against Tennessee and needed a last-play score to reach 19 points against Alabama. With Bazelak, the Tigers took to the air, and LSU has been wretched in pass defense this season. Can Kentucky get stops?
Of course, in the Wildcats’ first two games, they also had massive trouble controlling the passing game. But in the last two weeks, UK has grabbed nine interceptions, and even taken three back to the end zone for pick-sixes (a fourth came up two yards short for Josh Paschal). Of more concern for Kentucky is offense, where the ground game has been hit and miss, and Terry Wilson’s passing attack has met its fair share of struggles.
It’s been a good time for the Wildcat defense to step up, and with linebacker Jamin Davis and cornerback Kelvin Joseph making big plays, they’ve mostly done that. The Wildcats will be without nose guard Quinton Bohanna, a massive 360-plus pound lane clogger, whose absence will likely be felt in run defense.
Kentucky hits this game clicking on most cylinders, and there’s no reason they can’t be successful in Columbia. At the same time, the margin for error is razor thin in the SEC in 2020. The guess here is that the Wildcats stay on the right side of that line.
Kentucky 27, Missouri 20
Other SEC games
It’s a short SEC slate, so not much to predict this week.
Auburn 31, Ole Miss 28
Alabama 45, Tennessee 14
LSU 31, South Carolina 24
Joe Cox is contributing editor for KySportsStyle.com Magazine. He grew up in Letcher County and Bell County and has written or co-written nine 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.