Kentucky at Missouri: Keys to Saturday's game

mstory@herald-leader.comOctober 26, 2012 

Keys to Saturday's Kentucky football game at Missouri:

THE GAME

Kentucky (1-7, 0-5 SEC) at Missouri (3-4, 0-4 SEC)

When: Noon

Where: Columbia, Mo.

TV: ESPNU

Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1, Sirius Channel 113, XM Channel 200

Series: Kentucky leads 2-0

Last meeting: Kentucky won 12-6 on Sept. 21, 1968, at Stoll Field.

Line: Missouri is favored by 14 points.

THE KEYS

1. Pretend it's Lexington

Kentucky may have won only one home game this season, but the Cats have been titans in Commonwealth Stadium compared to their puny road performances. In the two away games (Florida, Arkansas) UK has played without injured starting quarterback Maxwell Smith, the Wildcats have been outscored 87-7. Missouri, on paper, is a team Kentucky can compete with, but the Kiddie Cats will have to be able to handle a homecoming atmosphere at a school where the festivities honoring returning alumni are a big deal.

2. Exploit a young QB

Kentucky certainly knows the perils of playing an inexperienced quarterback this season. Yet if dual-threat Missouri quarterback James Franklin (sprained medial collateral ligament) really is sidelined for a second straight game by injury, it means the Tigers will have to go with redshirt freshman Corbin Berkstresser under center. The Lee's Summit, Mo., product is 1-1 as a starter this season (beat Arizona State; lost to Alabama) but is only 21-for-59 passing for 315 yards in the last two games (Vanderbilt, Alabama) combined.

3. Make third-down stops

The Kentucky defense has been horrid at "getting off the field" in 2012 — UK stands last in the SEC, allowing foes to convert a whopping 54.2 percent of their third-down attempts (by comparison, the next-worst SEC third-down defense, Mississippi, allows 43.4 percent to foes). The good news is that the Missouri offense is the worst in the Southeastern Conference at converting third downs, 27.1 percent. In this third-down battle of a resistible force (Missouri offense) and a movable object (Kentucky defense), UK needs to come out on top.

THE MOOD

Lightened just a tad with Kentucky's far-more-competitive-than-expected effort last week in a 29-24 loss to Georgia. Still, the most pressing UK football topic in the commonwealth remains speculation about Joker Phillips' job security. A Mizzou victory would be historic both ways — it would give the Tigers their first SEC football win ever and drop Kentucky (579-579-44 all-time) below .500 as a program for the first time since the 1902 season finale.

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