To say that the Kentucky Wildcats will spend the week licking their wounds is an understatement.
After getting completely embarrassed on the road in Athens, it’ll be up to Mark Stoops and his staff to find a way to right the ship.
Despite being 5-1 on the season, the vibes around Kentucky Football aren’t going to align with that record, at least for now after the blowout loss to the Georgia Bulldogs.
There isn’t any time to pout or feel sorry for themselves, because the middle portion of UK’s schedule is brutal.
Both Kentucky and Missouri lost their undefeated status in a mentally taxing way over the weekend. The story of this game will likely be which squad can better regroup and respond under difficult circumstances.
Fortunately for UK, the Cats will be back on their home turf with the SEC Network kickoff set for 7:30 pm ET on Saturday, October 14th. The early DraftKings spread has Kentucky as a 2.5-point favorite.
As of now, the weather forecast is shaping up to be some textbook football weather with cloudy skies expected and temps in the 50s.
From a game preparation standpoint, where do you even start if you're Mark Stoops and his coaching staff?
Execution? Effort? Strategy?
Wherever they choose to place their focus, they’ll be game-planning for a solid Mizzou team coached by Eliah Drinkwitz, who took over the program in 2020 and is now in the fourth season.
The Tigers have won several close games this season, beating MTSU by four points and narrowly knocking off a ranked Kansas State team at home by just three points.
Brad White will have a tall task this week as he attempts to slow down a stout Missouri passing attack led by junior QB Brady Cook.
In the era of the transfer portal, Cook chose to be patient and wait for his time in Columbia, and so far, the results speak for themselves. The St. Louis native is completing 71.8% of his passes and has lit up the stat book through three games by tossing for nearly 1900 yards which ranks third in the conference.
Cook has thrown for 13 touchdowns and just two interceptions this season, with both of the picks coming in Saturday’s loss to LSU. In fact, it was a pick-six with under one minute to play that cemented Missouri’s loss.
Cook has the luxury of throwing to the top wideout in the league with Luther Burden III, who’s tallied 793 yards to go along with an SEC-best 54 receptions, eight more than the next closest player. The Tigers will aim to use Burden III early and often.
UK’s secondary has many questions this off-season but had looked great up until getting completely undressed against the top-ranked Bulldogs.
I can’t remember ever watching a Brad White defense look as out of sorts as Kentucky did down in Athens. Blown coverages, missed tackles, and just sheer confusion all played a role in UGA hanging a jaw-dropping 51 points on their heads.
I can only imagine how difficult practice will be this week for the players, but if history is any indicator, I’d trust White to figure things out and get his talented group to lock back in.
If they can’t find a way to lock back in, things could get ugly because this Missouri offense averages 465 yards per game and will light it up if given the opportunity.
Regardless of what their opponent is doing, Kentucky will have to clean up their own act to have a chance at winning Saturday and beyond.
Painstaking penalties and utter lack of execution have plagued the Cats this season, with things really hitting the fan at Georgia.
Devin Leary‘s inconsistent play has officially entered cause for concern status, so you have to anticipate the offensive game plan centered around putting him in the best spots to be successful.
Kentucky has a bona fide superstar with running back Ray Davis, who leads the SEC in both rush yards (653) and rushing touchdowns (eight) while catching four more scores.
At this point, feeding him the pigskin only makes sense, but Leary and his pass-catching weapons have to be consistent threats, or Liam Coen is going to have his hands full finding enough balance to score regularly against good defenses.
It’s a good time to reflect on whether or not you’re a glass-half-full or a glass-half-empty fan.
The bottom line is that Kentucky is 5-1 through six games, with their lone loss coming on the road at the hands of the two-time defending national champions.
A good showing against Missouri at Kroger Field on Saturday night, and the 2023 season is right back on track with rivalry games left against Tennessee and Louisville.
Location: Kroger Field
Time: 7:30 ET on Saturday, October 14th
TV Channel: SEC Network
Radio: UK Sports Network
Replay: WatchESPN and SEC Network (check local listings).
Early Prediction: DRatings.com has Kentucky coming away with a 28-21 victory.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.