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GAMETHREAD: Kentucky at Mizzou

aka: The Most Important Game of Mark Stoops’ Career, part 5

Mississippi State v Kentucky Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Welcome to the latest episode of “Is this the game when Kentucky officially gets some credit for the turnaround job Mark Stoops has done since that debacle in the Swamp?”, aka Kentucky Football 2016.

Fresh off a dramatic victory over Mississippi State, when Kentucky won their third SEC game in a single season for the first time since 2009, the Cats travel to COMO to take on a Missouri team that is reeling from a 45-51 loss to MTSU. For an SEC team to lose to a Conference USA team is never good, but to lose to one on Homecoming Weekend?At the place that literally invented Homecoming? Ouch.

And yet coming in to today’s match, Mizzou is a 3.5 point favorite over Kentucky. Despite losing two of their best defenders, despite the fact Mizzou has won exactly two games thus far this season (vs. a 5-3 Eastern Michigan and an 0-6 Delaware State), and despite the fact you can get tickets to this thing in the lower bowl for $20. If nothing else motivates Kentucky to get their first SEC road win of the season, the desire to show Vegas that maybe UK football isn’t going to be a perennial cellar dweller anymore might just do the trick.

Also on the line, the best chance the Cats have to score win number five before facing an 0-7 Austin Peay, and a golden ticket to life in the post-season.

With so much at stake, there’s been a lot of back and forth chatter about this game. Bill Connelly, who is one of my favorite writers on SBNation, did a terrific job analyzing the stats to see why Mizzou might pull this off. Conversely Paul Jordan did a great job laying out why their offense is pretty impressive but Kentucky has this. Will has an awesome explanation over at RockMNation on exactly why Kentucky will win. Athlon Sports, 247 Sports and Bleacher Report picked UK to win, FBSchedules picked Missouri. At a 3.5 point spread, Vegas has basically muttered “I can’t even with these guys”, and left in search of a strip bar serving breakfast.

And there’s even more at stake than just bowl eligibility for Kentucky: just about every talking head agrees that if Georgia beats Florida, and Kentucky wins today, that means they’re tied to lead the SEC East, and that is legitimately a sign of the Apocalypse. There’s a rumor some lunatic over at CBS thinks the Cats have a decent shot at playing Bama in ATL for the SEC Championship. I say, stranger things have happened...’Bama doesn’t always win out the SEC West, right? (Don’t kid yourself: I truly have no idea who will rep the East but they’re totally absolutely 100% facing ‘Bama.)

TL;DR: This game, once again, is the most important game of Mark Stoops’ career. And while we’ve said that a lot this season....this time it’s really, really true.

Join us at noon to cheer the Cats onto victory. Until then: Go Big Blue!