Sidelines with John Clay

Despite injuries, Missouri favored over Kentucky; more Big Blue Links

Missouri running back Ish Witter ran away from Middle Tennessee defenders Jimal McBride (left) and Malik Hawkins in Missouri’s 51-45 loss Saturday in Columbia. Witter took a big hit during the game but returned in the next series.
Missouri running back Ish Witter ran away from Middle Tennessee defenders Jimal McBride (left) and Malik Hawkins in Missouri’s 51-45 loss Saturday in Columbia. Witter took a big hit during the game but returned in the next series. Associated Press

Big Blue Links for Monday:

▪ Missouri plays host to Kentucky this Saturday and the Tigers are reeling. The Tigers are 2-5 overall after Saturday’s 51-45 home loss to Middle Tennessee. And as Tod Palmer reports in the Kansas City Star, injuries are starting to mount for the Tigers.

Offensive guard Alec Abeln missed the game against the Blue Raiders. On Mizzou’s first defensive snap, senior cornerback John Gibson suffered a sprained left knee. Later that smae drive, senior linebacker Michael Scherer also suffered a sprained right knee. Scherer has started 33 consecutive games.

Despite all this, Missouri opened as a 4.5-point favorite over Kentucky

▪ Ex-UK assistant Tony Franklin is the offensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee. And wherever Franklin goes, teams score points. After coaching at Auburn, Louisiana Tech and California, Franklin has returned to Middle, where the Blue Raiders are currently fifth in the nation in total offense, averaging 548.9 yards per game.

Middle is 5-2 on the season, including a 2-1 mark in Conference-USA. The one loss came last week when the Blue Raiders lost 44-43 in overtime to Western Kentucky. MTSU visits Florida International this Saturday.

▪ In a showdown between the SEC’s lone two unbeaten teams in conference play, Kentucky dropped a tough five-set match at Missouri on Sunday. Missouri held on 25-21, 28-26, 16-25, 22-25, 15-12.

The loss snapped a 13-match winning streak for Craig Skinner’s Cats, who are now 16-5 overall and 9-1 in the SEC. Missouri improved to 9-0 in conference play.

Kentucky returns to action next Sunday at Alabama. After playing at Auburn on Nov. 4, the Cats return home for the rematch with Missouri on Sunday, Nov. 6.

▪ Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops will hold his weekly press luncheon this afternoon. That will be followed by a press conference with details about the new UK baseball stadium construction. Funding was approved last week.

▪ I was in Cincinnati on Sunday for the Bengals 31-17 win over the Browns. Lots of big plays in the Bengals’ win, including two 48-yard catches by A.J. Green. The first was a Hail Mary touchdown at the end of the first half when Green was able to tip the ball to himself. The second might have been even more impressive. It was a one-handed grab down the right sideline in the fourth quarter. Green caught eight passes for 169 yards on the day.

Paul Daugherty of the Cincinnati Enquirer wrote on Green and his juggling, which the former Georgia star began as part of an elementary school club.

Pro Football Focus says Green is just continuing an impressive season.

Meanwhile, the AFC North race grew tighter on Sunday. Playing without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh lost at home to New England 27-16. The Steelers are now 4-3. Baltimore lost in New York to the Jets 24-16. The Ravens are now 3-4. The Bengals are 3-4.

Next week: Pittsburgh and Baltimore are both idle. Cincinnati plays Washington in London. Cleveland, now 0-7, plays host to the Jets.

▪ Back to UK football, where the Cats are no doubt still basking in the glow of the last-second 40-38 win over Mississippi State on Saturday night, thanks to Austin MacGinnis’ 51-yard field goal at the buzzer.

Overshadowed a bit by MacGinnis’ kick was the heady play made by Jeff Badet, the UK wide receiver who immediately took a knee after catching an 18-yard pass from quarterback to Stephen Johnson. Badet’s knee allowed UK to call time out with three seconds remaining for the field goal attempt.

As Jennifer Smith writes, Badet had a big night. The senior caught seven passes for a career-high 139 yards and two touchdowns. Before Saturday, Badet had caught just 10 passes on the year.

▪ Alabama is still No. 1 in the AP college football poll, but Ohio State slipped to No. 6 in the latest AP college football poll after Saturday night’s loss to Penn State. Louisville moved from No. 7 to No. 5 in the rankings.

Penn State cracked the rankings at No. 24, its first appearance under former Vanderbilt coach James Franklin. The Nittany Lions were last ranked on Dec. 4, 2011.

Here’s a look of the AP polls so far this season, in a Google Sheet.

▪ Louisville and Western Kentucky are reportedly finalizing a football series deal that will look a bit like the series that UK and Western Kentucky recently played. At least one of the U of L-WKU games will be played in Nashville. Reportedly, there will be multiple games at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in Louisville.

Western is coached by former U of L quarterback Jeff Brohm, who coached under current U of L coach Bobby Petrino. When Petrino returned to Louisville for his second stint as head coach of the Cardinals, Brohm became the head coach in Bowling Green. He’s 25-10 there, including a 5-3 record so far this season.

▪ The World Series starts Tuesday night in Cleveland with the American League champion Indians playing the National League champion Chicago Cubs. Seems odd to say, doesn’t it?

Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times writes an interesting column on Cubs’ architect Theo Epstein, who once thought of being a sports writer, but decided the life was too lonely. I think Theo found his true calling.

▪ Former UK player Jason Kipnis, the Indians’ second baseman, is dealing with a sprained ankle suffered during his team’s victory celebration after beating the Blue Jays in the ALCS.

Kipnis transferred from UK to Arizona State while in college. The 29-year-old hit .275 with 23 homers and 82 RBI this season for the Indians. Kipnis hit .303 last season.

▪ If you missed Sunday Night Football, you didn’t miss any touchdowns being scored. If you haven’t heard, the Seahawks-Cardinals game ended in a 6-6 tie. Yes, there are still ties in pro football.

▪ Auburn will put a statue of Charles Barkley outside of its basketball arena. Barkley calls it “one of the coolest things to ever happen to me in my life.”

Bo Jackson announced the news in a video message played during the Auburn-Arkansas football game on Saturday night.

▪ Bad news at South Carolina where freshman guard Rakym Felder was arrested on multiple charges and was in jail Sunday night. Felder was suspended indefinitely by the school.

A three-star prospect from Brooklyn, Felder averaged 16 points and six assists for Abraham Lincoln High School. He was rated at Top 400 recruit by 247Sports.

▪ The NBA’s regular season starts Tuesday. So Richard Deitsch previews the NBA broadcast landscape. As Richard points out, given the drop in NFL ratings so far this season, it will be interesting to see what the NBA does in terms of viewers. My guess is the league will continue to grow.

SEC football games Saturday

12:00 - Kentucky at Missouri (SEC)

3:30 - Florida vs. Georgia (CBS)

3:30 - Samford at Mississippi State (SEC)

7:15 - Auburn at Ole Miss (SEC)

7:15 - Tennessee at South Carolina (ESPN2)

7:30 - New Mexico State at Texas A&M (ESPNU)

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