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2017 Kentucky Wildcats Football Season Preview: Missouri Tigers

We are creeping closer to football season so I am continuing my look at the opponents that the Wildcats will be facing this season.

NCAA Football: Arkansas at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

After spending a couple of years in the penthouse of the SEC East, the Missouri Tigers have had a couple of down seasons languishing in the cellar, going just 3-13 in the SEC. Kentucky has won both meetings against the Tigers, 21-13 and 35-21 on the road last year. The Tigers are still picked in the cellar of the SEC, but they can not be overlooked as they will have one of the top offenses in the conference.

Drew Lock will be one of the top returning quarterbacks this year and he is coming off of a 3,399 yards passing season with 23 touchdowns. He passed for more than 300 yards against teams like Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Kentucky, by the way, held him to just 220 yards, one of his lowest outputs.

WR J'Mon Moore was by far Lock's favorite target and he finished the season strong with 23 catches for 407 yards against Vandy, Tennessee, and Arkansas. Dimetrios Mason was impressive as a Freshman, and 587 yards and 2 TDs. He had a big game against the Wildcats last year with 101 yards receiving and 2 TDs.

Damarea Crockett had over 1,000 yards as a freshman on the ground and found the end zone 10 times. He runs hard with a great vision. Ish Winter will be a senior and he had 750 yards on the ground. All five OL starters also return for the Tigers. While this started as a patchwork line early last year, the progressed over the course of the season and should only get better.

While inconsistent last year, the offense for the Tigers was not the problem. It was a defense that ranked among the nation's worst in most of the statistical rankings.

The defensive line should be improved, at least. Marcell Frazier had 6.5 sacks over the last three games. Hopefully, Terry Beckner Jr, who has had his last two seasons end early due to knee injury can stay healthy this year, and the Tigers have some promising JUCO transfers coming.

Missouri has talent in the linebacking corps but simply missed way too many tackles last year. Another year of maturity should help players like Eric Beisel and Brandon Lee. The talent is there, but this unit has to gain some consistency.

Probably the biggest question is the defensive backfield where the Tigers lost a couple of starters. It will be up to sophomores DeMarkus Acy and Christian Holmes to step up in a hurry. There are a lot of things the Tigers need to fix on defense and while the potential is there, that alone does not fix the problems.

The game at Kroger Field should be an entertaining one and this could very well be a shootout and one of the most entertaining games on the SEC slate. Expect points to be scored, but Kentucky has a much better defense. Look for a 38-24 Wildcat win.