Missouri head coach Eliah Drinkwitz speaks during NCAA college football Southeastern Conference Media Days, Monday, July 17, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

Missouri, Kentucky Set to Clash Following SEC Losses

The Missouri Tigers (5-1, 1-1) travel to Lexington to take on the 24th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats (5-1, 2-1) at 7:30 Saturday night.

Both teams are coming off SEC losses.

Missouri lost last week at home to the previously 23rd-ranked LSU Tigers, while Kentucky is coming off a 51-13 blowout loss on the road to top-ranked Georgia.

The Prowl of the Cats

To win this game, Kentucky will need to be able to effectively run the ball. North Carolina State transfer quarterback Devin Leary has had a hard time throwing the ball against SEC competition.

In his three games against SEC competition, Leary has thrown for four touchdowns and two interceptions. However, his best completion percentage was 51.7 percent, and his highest quarterback rating was 61.8. Kentucky will be looking for Leary to have a clean, efficient game Saturday night.

Kentucky will have to heavily rely on Ray Davis, who has rushed for 653 yards and eight touchdowns. His most notable performance came against Florida, where he rushed for 280 yards and three touchdowns. Davis has stepped up in conference play, rushing for 417 yards in the first three games.

He will be protected by the “Big Blue Wall”, which is Kentucky’s veteran offensive line consisting of four seniors.

Missouri’s Offensive Attack

One of the biggest reasons that Missouri has started this season 5-1 is because of how potent its offense has been. Missouri has put up at least 30 points in five of their first six games.

Missouri has seen an improvement because junior quarterback Brady Cook has improved massively to start the season. He has thrown for 13 touchdowns to just two interceptions. Through six games, he has thrown for 1, 879 yards.

His favorite target thus far has been sophomore wide receiver Luther Burden III, who has 793 receiving yards this season. He also has five touchdowns.

His head coach, Eliah Drinkwitz, spoke very highly of him.

Physicality and Intensity

To win this game, Missouri will have to win the battle at the line of scrimmage to win in a tough road environment.

With Kentucky being known as a physical football team, Drinkwitz mentioned in his teleconference that they will need to match the level of physicality that Kentucky will bring.

Kentucky will have to play a physical game against Missouri, and their home fans should boost those efforts. After allowing 51 points on the road against Georgia, physicality will have an even bigger emphasis placed on it.

Defensive Woes

Kentucky and Missouri did not contain the offenses they played against last weekend.

Georgia had 608 total yards of offense on Kentucky, and Brock Bowers highlighted with seven catches and 132 yards, along with a touchdown.

Carson Beck threw for 389 yards and four touchdowns against a Kentucky defense that had not given up 250 pass yards in a single game.

Missouri did not look too much better on defense, giving up 533 total yards of offense to LSU. Jayden Daniels threw for 259 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 134 yards with one touchdown.

Both teams will need to make adjustments on the defensive side of the ball to have success Saturday night and for the rest of the season.

Keys to the Game

Kentucky will need to shut down Missouri’s ground game and limit the Tigers to solely throwing the ball. This is attainable for Kentucky, who ranks 13th nationally in rush defense.

Missouri will have to throw the ball efficiently, and the Cook-to-Burden connection will have to be on-point.

Kickoff is set for 7:30 Saturday night at Kroger Field.

About Jackson Colding

Jackson Colding is a second-year journalism sports and media student at the University of Florida.