UK Football

Kentucky football vs. Missouri: How they match up and a game prediction

Missouri linebacker Kentrell Brothers leads the nation in  tackles with 42, including three for a loss. He also has two interceptions and a pass break up.
Missouri linebacker Kentrell Brothers leads the nation in tackles with 42, including three for a loss. He also has two interceptions and a pass break up. AP

How Missouri and Kentucky match up for Saturday's game at Commonwealth Stadium:

QUARTERBACKS

After Kentucky's Patrick Towles completed only eight of 24 passes with two interceptions in the loss to Florida, some vocal elements of the UK fan base are agitating for a QB change to redshirt freshman Drew Barker. It will be interesting to see how Towles responds. Missouri's Maty Mauk has been a Cats killer in the past, having led the Tigers to two wins over Kentucky while throwing seven TD passes and no picks. Mauk hurt Kentucky with his legs (75 yards rushing) last year, too. He has completed only 52.5 percent of his passes this year, though. True freshman Drew Lock has played in all three games as Mauk's backup.

Advantage: Missouri

RUNNING BACKS

Kentucky's Boom Williams had his streak of 100-yards-plus rushing games snapped by Florida (80 yards on 16 carries). The Monroe, Ga., product is fifth in the SEC in rushing (107.3 yards per game). In UK's 20-10 loss at Missouri last year, Mikel Horton (62 yards on 10 carries) was the Cats' most effective rusher. Missouri's Russell Hansbrough ran for 1,084 yards and 10 TDs last year, but he has been slowed by a sprained ankle this season. He missed last week's game with Connecticut but Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel said the 5-foot-9, 195-pound senior is "probable" to play against UK.

Advantage: Kentucky

WIDE RECEIVERS

Against Florida, Kentucky wideouts did not make the tough catches for Patrick Towles that the Gators receivers made for Will Grier. Dorian Baker (four catches) was the only UK wide receiver with more than one reception against Florida — and he dropped a potential touchdown pass in the end zone. J'mon Moore, the latest in the recent line of longish Missouri wide receivers at 6-3, leads the Tigers with 11 receptions. Nate Brown, another 6-3 sophomore, leads the Tigers with two TD receptions.

Advantage: Even

TIGHT END

Though Mark Stoops has praised C.J. Conrad for his blocking, the true freshman is still looking for his first college reception. Missouri's Sean Culkin, conversely, is tied for the team lead with 11 receptions. He caught a TD pass in Mizzou's narrow win at Arkansas State.

Advantage: Missouri

OFFENSIVE LINE

After true freshman George Asafo-Adjei struggled with Florida's athletic defensive front, sophomore Kyle Meadows is listed equal with him at right tackle on the Kentucky depth chart. Missouri starts four seniors, three of them fifth-year players. Center Evan Boehm has started all 43 games in which he's played; left tackle Connor McGovern started at right guard last season.

Advantage: Even

DEFENSIVE LINE

Kentucky DT Regie Meant was off to a stellar start (four tackles, a QB sack) against Florida before having to leave the game in the first half with an injury. Mark Stoops said Meant's status for this week's game is "doubtful." Picking up the baton of standout defensive end play at Missouri, sophomore Charles Harris has eight TFL, second in the country. His counterpart, redshirt freshman Walter Brady, has two sacks.

Advantage: Missouri

LINEBACKERS

Kentucky senior WLB Ryan Flannigan, a former junior-college transfer who the UK coaches raved about in the preseason, is expected to make his season debut after missing the first three games with a shoulder injury. Missouri WLB Kentrell Brothers leads the nation in tackles (42) and has 3 TFL, 2 interceptions and a pass break up.

Advantage: Missouri

SECONDARY

UK junior cornerback J.D. Harmon has been a ball hawk in 2015, with two interceptions and a forced fumble in the season's first three games. His leaping, second-half pick in the Florida end zone kept UK alive in that game. Missouri is third in the nation in pass defense (allowing 112 yards a game). Corner Aarion Penton had a pass break up and a quarterback hurry against UConn; strong safety Anthony Sherrills has one interception.

Advantage: Missouri

SPECIAL TEAMS

UK's Mark Stoops expressed concern about punter Landon Foster's slow start (40.4 yards a punt, only three of 14 kicks downed inside the 20). Place-kicker Austin MacGinnis is 6-for-7 on field goals with his only miss from 46 yards. Missouri punter Corey Fatony is off to a strong start, averaging 44.9 yards a kick with six punts inside the 20. Place-kicker Andrew Baggett is 4-for-5 on field goals with a long of 41 yards. Punt returner Aarion Penton is seventh in the SEC (10.9 yards a return).

Advantage: Missouri

PREDICTION

Missouri 16, Kentucky 14.

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