Missouri at Kentucky
When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Kroger Field, Lexington, Ky.
TV: SEC Network
Radio: KMBZ (98.1 FM)
Line: Kentucky by 9 1/2
The lowdown: Missouri is coming off a bye week and will be two weeks removed from its 51-14 blowout loss to Auburn. Kentucky will be the Tigers’ first road game of the season and the team’s first without starting wide receiver Dimetrios Mason, who was dismissed from the program for a team rules violation during the bye week. Kentucky is coming off a 24-20 win over Eastern Michigan in which the Wildcats struggled to put away an FCS opponent.
Missouri keys to success: Wide receiver play. Kentucky has a number of playmakers on defense and one of the top run defenses in the country. Missouri has a three-headed running attack in sophomore running back Damarea Crockett, senior Ish Witter and true freshman Larry Rountree III but will need help against a tough Kentucky defense. With Mason’s departure, juniors Emanuel Hall and Nate Brown are expected to see an increase in playing time. Missouri will need to air out the ball if it wants to move the chains.
Kentucky keys to success: Make plays on defense. Kentucky boasts a number of playmakers on defense, especially in its secondary including linebacker Josh Allen, who is second in the conference with six sacks. Kentucky’s offense has been stagnant and has struggled against opponents like Eastern Michigan, Southern Miss and Eastern Kentucky. Kentucky’s offense has done enough to get the team off to a 4-1 start but the defense might have to help them out to put this game away, given the offense’s latest struggles.
Key matchup: The Missouri offensive line vs. Kentucky’s defense. Despite its struggles Missouri’s offensive line has had a decent year, ranking in the top 10 nationally for sacks allowed. It also has held its own against stiff defenses like Auburn and managed to open some holes for Crockett and Rountree against the Tigers. Missouri’s line will have to be on its best game Saturday to hold off the Wildcats arsenal of pass-rushers or try and find some weaknesses to try and open up the run game. Otherwise it could be a long night for Drew Lock and Co.
Alex Schiffer’s prediction: Missouri 24, Kentucky 21. The Wildcats have been playing to the level of competition throughout the year as they’ve struggled against lower opponents but nearly upset Florida in a 28-27 loss. Kentucky will keep Missouri in the game because of the offense’s inability to put teams away and the Tigers thirst to ruin someone else’s night on the road will give Barry Odom his first conference road win of his career.