UK Football

The Blue Preview: Kentucky bids to keep good vibes going at Mizzou

Kentucky freshman Benny Snell broke away from two Mississippi State defenders en route to a 34-yard touchdown run. A 5-foot-11, 220-pound product of Westerville, Ohio, Snell finished with 128 yards rushing against the Bulldogs.
Kentucky freshman Benny Snell broke away from two Mississippi State defenders en route to a 34-yard touchdown run. A 5-foot-11, 220-pound product of Westerville, Ohio, Snell finished with 128 yards rushing against the Bulldogs. cbertram@herald-leader.com

Kentucky at Missouri

When: Noon Saturday

Where: Columbia, Mo.

TV: SEC Network (play-by-play Tom Hart; analysis Andre Ware; sideline Cole Cubelic)

Radio: WLAP AM-630, WBUL FM-98.1, XM Channel 190, Sirius Channel 83

Records: Kentucky 4-3 (3-2 SEC), Missouri 2-5 (0-3 SEC)

Series history: Tied 3-3

Last meeting: Kentucky won 21-13 on Sept. 26, 2015, in Commonwealth Stadium

Favorite: Missouri is favored by 3.5 points

The storyline

With four victories in hand and a remaining contest with winless Austin Peay (0-7) of the FCS, Kentucky is essentially playing for bowl eligibility in Columbia. To earn it, UK will have to win an SEC road game for only the second time since Rich Brooks retired (2009). Having already beaten South Carolina and Vanderbilt, the Wildcats are seeking to win three games vs. SEC East foes in one season for the first time since the Southeastern Conference went to divisions in 1992.

On the spot

Mark Stoops. In its two wins (over Eastern Michigan and Delaware State), Missouri scored 61 (EMU) and 79 (Delaware State) points. Under new offensive coordinator Josh Heupel, the Tigers lead the SEC in total offense (505 yards a game). Can Stoops and the Kentucky defense slow the Tigers down enough to give the improving UK offense a window to win the game?

The main threat

Missouri quarterback Drew Lock is second in the SEC in passing (285 yards a game with 16 TD passes vs. only six interceptions). The 6-foot-4, 220-pound sophomore is more pocket passer than dual threat — which could be a relief for a UK defense that has historically struggled with QBs who are equally likely to run or throw.

The mood

Has not seemed to catch up with UK’s improved results. After Kentucky started the season 0-2 and looked bad doing it, many Long Suffering UK Football Fans went sour on the season. Now that the Cats have won four of five including three SEC victories, the process of “buying back in” seems slow. A win at Missouri would all but ensure the first Kentucky bowl trip since the 2010 season. A loss does not end viable postseason hopes for UK, but it would make Georgia — a team Kentucky has beaten twice since 1996 — all but a “must-win.”

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