Kentucky Football: Taking a look at the Missouri Tigers

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

The game against Missouri looked a lot more winnable before the season began.

Last year, Texas A&M was the talk of the SEC after beating Alabama in Tide country. Everyone was wondering if the SEC should’ve taken another team instead of Mizzou. It turned out that Missouri was suffering from the injury epidemic. This year is a different story. With no significant injuries, the Tigers are the talk of the SEC this year and they lead the SEC-East. James Franklin may return to the field against Kentucky, but Maty Maulk has been a more than adequate replacement.

There are still some blue kool-aid, spiked with vodka, drinkers out there on the forum message boards who are predicting a Kentucky upset. What are they thinking? Check out the UT game highlights.

I have to admit, in the preseason, I thought this was a winnable game. That was based on last year's Missouri. After watching them play several games, it is clear this is not the same Missouri that we saw last year. This year's edition is 8-1 (first time since 2007), and 2-1 against top 30 teams, according to Jeff Sagarin. He has them as the #7 team in the land. Plus, their SOS stands at #30. Kentucky's SOS dropped to #25, thanks to the Alabama State game.

The Tigers are visiting Commonwealth Stadium after that mauling of Tennessee at home 31-3. As I began to write this, it was Tuesday. So far, Missouri hasn't given Kentucky any thought, except for a link to this John Clay article. Recruits have begun to notice Missouri as Pinkel was able to flip Ole Miss commt, 4 Star OL Andy Bauer to Missouri. Read about it here.

Gary Pinkel is similar to Rich Brooks in that Brooks was good at player development. However, Pinkel is not quite as good, but similar to Mark Stoops in recruiting. Look at Pinkel's (Rivals) recruiting classes over the last five years.

2009 - #40 - 25 recruits averaging 2.8 stars - 5 stars: 1; 4 stars: 1; 3 stars: 13; 2 stars: 8. Pinkle signed the #1 DT, Sheldon Richardson from St. Louis who did not qualify, and 4 star JUCO LB Joshua Tatum from City College of San Francisco.

2010 - #21 - 23 recruits averaging 3.3 stars - 5 stars: 0; 4 stars: 7; 3 stars: 16; 2 stars: 0. Here's the 4 star players: Nick Demien, Kony Ealy, James Franklin, Tyler Gabbert, Tristen Holt, Jimmie Hunt, and Marcus Lucas.

2011 - #48 - 16 recruits averaging 3.06 stars - 5 stars: 0; 4 stars: 1; 3 stars: 16; 2 stars: 0. Here's the 4 star: JUCO Sheldon Richardson from College of the Sequoias.

2012 - #31 - 19 recruits averaging 3.11 stars - 5 stars: 0; 4 stars: 1; 3 stars: 16; 2 stars: 1. Missouri signed the #1 player in the nation, WR Dorial Green- Beckham from Springfield, MO., and 4 star OL Evan Boehm, also from Missouri.

2013 - #41 - 20 recruits averaging 3.0 stars - 5 stars: 0; 4 stars: 1; 3 stars: 18; 2 stars: 2. The Tigers signed 4 star ATH Chase Abbington from Missouri.

2014 Commitments to date - #31 - 25 commitments averaging 2.68 stars - 5 stars: 0; 4 stars: 1; 3 stars: 15; 2 stars: 9. The flip, Andy Bauer, is the 4 star player.

The key to Pinkel's success is player evalustion and player development with decent recruiting. You can read about this in this lengthy piece over at Rock M Nation if you're interested. It is important to note that Stoops has not had a long enough tenure yet for any of us to measure how good this staff is at player development.

How do we statistically match up with Missouri? Read and weep.

Mizzou - Wildcats

Rushing Offense: 237.2 (16) - 162.3 (69)

Passing Offense: 262.8 (41) - 195.4 (95)

Passing Efficiency: 149.71 (28) - 129.57 (69)

Yards per Completion: 13.29 (31) - 11.41 (89)

Red Zone Offense: 84.4% (54) - 80.8% (t-79)

Scoring Offense: 40.6 (13) - 24.0 (91)

Total Offense: 500.0 (15) - 357.6 (98)

Tackles for Loss Allowed: 5.22 (42) - 6.00 (t-66)

Sacks Allowed: 1.89 (t-62) - 2.50 (t-90)

Time of possession: 30 (48) - 26 (113)

3rd Down Conv. %: 46.8% (27) - 28.6% (116)

4th Down Conv. %: 66.7% (t-10) - 71.4% (6)

First Downs: 229 (10) - 145 (108)

Defense

Rushing Defense: 109.4 (17) - 197.6 (95)

Passing Defense: 279.3 (113) - 223.4 (49)

Scoring Defense: 20.6 (t-23) - 27.3 (t-70)

Passing Efficiency Defense: 119.8 (40) - 145.32 (100)

Passes Intercepted: 17 (t-2) - 1 (t-122 - tied for last in the nation)

Tackles for Loss: 7.6 (t-31) - 4.3 (t-114)

Sacks: 3.00 (t-12) - 2.25 (t-43)

Total Defense: 388.8 (56) - 421.0 (82)

3rd Down Conv. %: 33.6% (21) - 45.0% (103)

4th Down Conversion %: 50.0% (t-53) - 60.0% (t-90)

First Downs: 185 (t-86) - 168 (t-60)

Turnover Margin: +1.7 (3) - +.4 (t-41)

Net Punting: 35.6 (93) - 37.07 (67)

Punt Returns: 4.29 (101) - 5.94 (90)

Punt Return Defense: 7.69 (t-63) - 7.75 (67)

Kickoff Returns: 22.12 (52) - 23.57 (29)

Kickoff Return Defense: 25.17 (112) - 16.90 (6)

Fewest Penalties per game: 5.33 (t-46) - 5.50 (t-54)

Penalty Yards per game: 40.67 (t-24) - 46.63 (54)

As you can see, Missouri tops the Cats in every phase of the game except for special teams. In the preseason, I said four wins would satisfy my happy meter while acknowledging the possibility of a two win season. Those four that I thought we could win were WKU, Miami, Alabama State and Missouri. Little did I know that Mississippi State would be the winnable game. While I don't see much likelihood of winning Saturday, I will be watching and cheering on my Wildcats. I want to see if we can play the Tigers better than Tennessee did.

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