Mark Story

Blue Preview: Your guide to Kentucky’s football game with Missouri

Kentucky vs. Missouri

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday (Oct. 26)

Where: Kroger Field (capacity 61,000)

TV: SEC Network (play-by-play, Tom Hart; analysis, Jordan Rodgers; sideline, Cole Cubelic)

Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1, XM Channel 190, Sirius 137, Internet 961

Records: Kentucky (3-4, 1-4 SEC); Missouri (5-2, 2-1 SEC)

Series history: Kentucky leads 6-3 and has won four in a row

Last meeting: No. 12 Kentucky beat Missouri 15-14 on Oct. 27, 2018, at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Mo.

Line: Missouri is favored by 10 points.

The story line

Needing three more victories to become bowl-eligible for a fourth straight year, Kentucky begins a stretch of five games, four at home, that will define its 2019 season. Missouri is 5-0 at home and 0-2 on the road this season, but Barry Odom’s Tigers figure to have their motivational fires roaring for the trip to Lexington. Mizzou is coming off a 21-14 upset loss at Vanderbilt that knocked the formerly-No. 22 Tigers out of the AP poll. Missouri is also seeking to snap its four-game losing skid vs. UK, the past two of which included controversial officiating decisions in the final seconds that each worked in Kentucky’s favor.

Missouri defensive back DeMarkus Acy stood in the end zone while Kentucky players celebrated after UK scored a touchdown on the game’s final play to beat Mizzou 15-14 last season in Columbia. Charlie Riedel AP

The big threat

Kelly Bryant. The graduate transfer who quarterbacked Clemson to the College Football Playoff in 2017 is coming to Lexington off his worst game as Missouri QB. In the unexpected loss at Vanderbilt, the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Bryant completed only 13 of 26 passes for 140 yards with one touchdown and one interception. For the season, however, the Calhoun Falls, S.C., product has been all Missouri could have expected, throwing for 1,715 yards and 13 TDs vs. only five picks with a completion percentage of 63.1. In what is usually bad news for Kentucky defenses, Bryant can also hurt teams with his legs. He was Mizzou’s leading rusher with 72 yards on 16 carries at Vanderbilt.

Kelly Bryant
Former Clemson starting quarterback Kelly Bryant (7) is using his graduate transfer season at Missouri. In directing the Tigers to a 5-2 record, Bryant has completed 63.1 percent of his passes and thrown for 13 touchdowns. Mark Humphrey AP

On the spot

Mark Stoops. Since becoming Kentucky head coach in 2013, Stoops is 0-7 against Georgia — and 0-6 in the game immediately following the Bulldogs. With UK coming off a 21-0 whitewashing at Sanford Stadium, it means Mizzou has the coveted “week after Georgia” slot on the Wildcats’ schedule. Stoops must again try to figure out a way to lift his team out of its history of post-Georgia futility.

Mark Stoops
Under Mark Stoops, Kentucky is 0-6 in the game that has immediately followed Georgia on the UK schedule. This season, Missouri holds that slot on the Wildcats’ schedule. Alex Slitz

The mood

Is wait and see. Coming off last season’s 10-3 breakthrough season, Kentucky fans were hopeful the 2019 Wildcats could produce a worthy follow-up. Its season undermined by multiple quarterback injuries, UK has not done that so far. However, most reasonable preseason goals for the Cats are still attainable if Kentucky can take care of business down the stretch.

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Mark Story has worked in the Lexington Herald-Leader sports department since Aug. 27, 1990, and has been a Herald-Leader sports columnist since 2001. I have covered every Kentucky-Louisville football game since 1994, every UK-U of L basketball game but three since 1996-97 and every Kentucky Derby since 1994.