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Missouri Tigers vs Kentucky Football: 5 keys to victory, odds, expert picks, analysis, predictions

A look at what UK must do to win, what the experts are saying, and our prediction for the game.

Jason Marcum

The Cats had an ugly victory last weekend over Eastern Michigan, but a win is a win, and I will take it.

The Wildcats are looking to get their second SEC win over Missouri when they come into the Commonwealth this Saturday night. Kentucky is a 10 point favorite to beat the Tigers this weekend, but I for one am not expecting a blow out for Mark Stoops.

The last time Mark Stoops and Kentucky blew out a team was in 2015 when they beat Charlotte 58-10. In Commonwealth Stadium. Charlotte had also been FBS-Division 1 for only one season before that game. This may not be the traditional powerful Missouri team we are used to, but it will still be a tough game. If the Cats are going to get the win at Kroger Field Saturday night; here are the five things they need to do:

Stephen Johnson has to keep rolling.

The 6-2 quarterback is having an amazing year this far into the season. Johnson has completed 77 of his 119 passes for 940 yards this season. Johnson has also passed for seven touchdowns and only threw one interception.

Johnson has became a leader for the Cats in the past two years. We all know Johnson had an interesting first season with UK. Johnson had several fumbles and threw several interceptions, but this season is different. Johnson only has thrown one interception and one fumble, and that fumble was when he got hit from his backside. If Johnson can have another big game and keep being a leader, the Cats will get a big SEC win this weekend.

Put pressure on Drew Lock.

This is going to be a true test for the Kentucky defensive line. Drew Lock has been very good this year, throwing for 1,115 yards and 10 touchdown passes. Lock has also thrown six interceptions this season. Lock is also sixth in Missouri history in passing yards with 5,846 yards.

Lock has only completed 52.6 percent of his passes this season, so that tells me one thing. He is not good under pressure. Lock has thrown six interceptions, and he was hit by a defender while throwing five of those six interceptions. Lock has been sacked only four times this season, but he has been knocked down 17 times. If Elam and Pringle can get pressure up the middle and Ware, Allen and Paschal get pressure on the edges and put pressure on Lock, then I can see the Cats getting the win.

Lock down J’Mon Moore.

J’Mon Moore is a stereotypical NFL wide receiver. Moore is 6 feet 3 inches and 205 pounds. Moore is Missouri’s big-time receiver and homerun guy. Moore has caught 12 passes this season for 312 yards. Yeah... that averages out to 26 yards-per-catch. Moore has also pulled down three touchdown passes. Moore has caught three passes for over 50 yards.

Derrick Baity has been VERY good this season, locking down the opposing team’s top receiver and this week will be no different. Baity is in my opinion the second best defensive player UK has. He very rarely gets beat deep, and if he does, he recovers and makes the play. The Cats will need Baity to step up big time in this game to get the win.

Get C.J. Conrad involved!!!

I know that I have put this on every game's five keys, but they are yet to really do it. C.J. Conrad is your biggest offensive asset, and they have not used him the way he could be used. Conrad has caught nine passes for 195 yards and three touchdowns, but that number should be higher.

Conrad is a 6-5 tight end, who was voted a top-10 tight end this preseason, but he only has nine catches? Every time I go back and watch the offensive plays, I see Conrad wide open, and Johnson takes a sack or throws to a wide receiver for a 3 yard gain. If Eddie Gran does not find a way to get Conrad more involved, then there will be issues in this game.

Win the battle in the trenches.

The Missouri Defensive line is a very disruptive unit for the Tigers. Now, that being said, the Tigers are ranked last in the SEC in total defense at 442 yards per game.

The Tigers have a couple of really good defensive players, but one in specific, Terry Beckner Jr. Beckner is, in my opinion, the best talent on that Missouri defense. He is a former five-star recruit and was tabbed as preseason All-SEC. With the coordinator out and Barry Odom calling the plays, I could see this defense causing UK’s struggling offensive line some problems.

I think this will be the game that Kentucky steps up and finally pushes the gas pedal and wins big.

My prediction: Kentucky 41 Missouri 14

The Missouri Tigers may be 1-4 on the season, but they are still a force in the SEC. Of course, this is what I’m saying about the game, but what are the experts saying?

Marcus Spears-SEC Network:

Spears said, "Kentucky will be the most ready in this game. If you can’t play defense in this game, you don’t stand a chance at winning games, unless its shear luck." in an interview with Greg McElroy on their SEC Network show Thinking Out Loud. Spears also said a lot of times people say Missouri may not be great at defense but they will have a chance to outscore people. Well this year, there not even putting points on the board like last year. Spears also said he thought Kentucky was actually a "pretty good" football team.

Greg McElroy-SEC Network:

McElroy has not been a fan favorite this season after his comments about Matt Elam, but he showed praise for Kentucky this week when talking to Marcus Spears on their show Thinking Out loud saying, "I do look at this Kentucky team, and I like their balance offensively, Benny Snell is running well, and Missouri won’t be able to stop the run, and I like what Stephen Johnson is doing and using his legs to become a playmaker."

Both Spears and McElroy complimented Kentucky by saying they have played better competition and when they did, they played to that level.

Jon Hale-Courier-Journal:

"Yes, Kentucky has shown a worrisome trend of playing down to its level of competition, but after falling into that trap against Eastern Michigan, there should be less risk of a repeat performance against a struggling Missouri squad. With the bye week looming, UK finally breaks through 30-point plateau for the first time this season and wins by at least two scores." Predicts Kentucky to win 35-21.

SEC Country Predictions:

Joe Mussatto:

"Kentucky is 4-1, but its biggest margin of victory was just 11 points against Eastern Kentucky. The Wildcats find a way to make games ugly and haven’t found a way to blow anyone out. Saturday won’t classify as a blowout, but I think it’ll be Kentucky’s biggest margin of victory this season. Kentucky 33, Missouri 20."

Kyle Tucker:

"With a chance to be 5-1 entering a bye week, Mark Stoops has talked a lot this week about "running the tank empty" on Saturday. The Wildcats have sort of slogged through the first half of the season so far and suffered some injuries and a heartbreaking loss along the way. But they know they can set themselves up for a special season by taking care of business against a bad Missouri team. So I think they will. Kentucky 31, Missouri 17."

It seems like Kentucky is a big-time favorite in this one. Make sure to tune in Saturday night at 7:30 on SEC Network if you can’t make it to the game.

Have a good weekend, enjoy some football and see ya’ next time!