The Kentucky Wildcats have clawed their way back to a .500 record after absolutely pummeling Tennessee 34-7 in Knoxville on Saturday, moving them to 2-2 on the season.
Even the most optimistic person probably didn’t see a beatdown like that coming, especially on the road in a place UK hadn’t won a game since 1984.
But with that monumental victory, the season outlook for Kentucky has morphed into something entirely different than what fans feared just two weeks ago.
Due to COVID-19 scheduling changes there was some rather last-minute updates that impacted UK in a major way.
Instead of playing Georgia as originally planned — Kentucky will now play Missouri at 4:00 EST on Saturday October 24th at Faurot Field in Columbia.
There’s a couple ways you could dissect the scheduling change, but the general consensus seems to label it as overall negative. The rationale being that it’d be more beneficial for UK to get the powerhouse Georgia program coming off of a week where they were beaten down 41-24 by Alabama.
But instead, the Dawgs will have to wait another week, and UK has to travel roughly 350 miles to their new opponent, Missouri, who will be well-rested after having last week off.
The Tigers are 1-2 on the season — their lone victory coming in their last game against LSU at home. So it’s safe to say that they will be about as healthy and confident as they’ve been all season.
To state the obvious Kentucky’s game plan this Saturday and every Saturday moving forward will be to ride the defense.
What Kentucky has accomplished on the defensive side of the ball over the last two weeks is nothing short of remarkable. To follow up a six interception performance with three more picks and two defensive touchdowns is just absurd.
Let’s all do ourselves a favor and not normalize the recent performance of Brad White and this defense. Their effort against Ole Miss and Tennessee was something that you could go a lifetime and never see again.
Missouri is averaging over 400 yards of offense but they’ve only converted that into about 26 points per game. They will likely give a heavy workload to their main running-back, Larry Rountree. The senior back has carried the ball 50 times this season with the next closest Tiger only having 17 touches. He’s rallied 275 yards and a single touchdown on those 50 carries.
You can only assume that the Missouri coaching staff will be thinking twice or even three times about airing the ball out on Saturday. Kentucky’s nine interceptions in two games is sure to impact opposing play-calls until something changes.
The Tigers have already made a change at QB this season. Redshirt freshman Connor Bazelak took over under center and went nuts against LSU throwing for 406 yards on 29/34 passing with four touchdowns. His 82.3 QBR this season ranked eighth in all of Division I college football.
The only common opponent Kentucky and Tennessee have is Missouri. The Vols actually demolished the Tigers 35-12. However, that was a game Shawn Robinson started in before being benched. When Bazelak came in, Tennessee was already up 14-0. He finished that game 13/21 passing for 218 yards and one pick while running the ball eights time for 11 yards.
Though this is a game that, on paper, the Cats should win, they can’t take anything for granted and better be ready to play on the road.
If there was ever a time to get the offense clicking on all cylinders, it will be in Columbia on Saturday. The Missouri defense is giving up 438 yards a game and has yet to hold an opponent under 35 points.
Eddie Gran and team got things rerouted in a positive direction in the second half against Tennessee, but there is still much left to be desired.
It’s tough to knock Terry Wilson who competed 12/15 passes on Saturday. Two of his three incompletions were dropped. I think it’s safe to say that the offense is slowly but surely finding its groove.
A win in Columbia would make the showdown with Georgia at home the following week one of the biggest games in college football that week.
Game: Kentucky Wildcats at Missouri Tigers
Date: October 24th at 4:00 pm EST
Stadium: Faurot Field in Columbia, Missouri
TV Channel: SEC Network
Online Stream: WatchESPN and fuboTV
Radio: UK Sports Network.
Early Odds: Kentucky has opened as a 6-point favorite, per Bovada.
Early Prediction: TeamRankings projects a 33-20 victory for Kentucky, while numberFire is going with a 27-21 win for the Cats.