Fresh off the heels of a 45-10 blowout of Louisiana-Monroe Kentucky starts conference play on Saturday. With the win, Mark Stoops became only the second coach in Kentucky football history to win 50 games. In week two the competition picks up quite a bit. Under the lights for a 7:30 kickoff at Kroger Field Kentucky and Missouri meet in a key game between dark horse teams in the SEC East. Let’s get you ready for the game by previewing both teams and a score prediction.
How About That Quarterback
If you’ve followed our Kentucky coverage, you know as a way of modernizing the offense Stoops brought in Liam Coen as the new offensive coordinator. The former LA Rams quarterbacks coach promised a more wide open attack getting the receivers involved doing more than just blocking. In addition, Coen went out and found his quarterback in former Penn State signal caller Will Levis. Once he became available through the transfer portal Coen recruited him hard and eventually got his man.
Against the Warhawks, Levis certainly looked the part throwing for 367 yards and four touchdowns. That put him only 33 yards from being the first signal caller since Andre Woodson in 2007 to have a 400 yard passing game. How good was he in his first game? Well the stats certainly don’t lie.
Will Levis earned the highest Week 1 passing grade by an SEC QB since 2014 (91.5) 😳
His first game as a Kentucky Wildcat. pic.twitter.com/5h6Wlepbdv
— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 7, 2021
For the game 11 different Wildcats caught passes with both Wan’Dale Robinson and Josh Ali cracking the century mark. That’s the first time since 2011 Kentucky’s had two receivers gain more that 100 yards. All totaled UK had 419 yards through the air, the most since they had 422 against Tennessee-Martin in 2014. Of course UK hasn’t forgotten what’s brought them success the last few years and that’s the running game. Chris Rodriguez ran for 125 yards and a score. However there was one glaring problem and that was three turnovers.
While all these stats are very impressive the Big Blue Nation has to temper their excitement just a little. In fact as losers of 12 straight quite simply Louisiana-Monroe isn’t very good. They will face a much tougher opponent on Saturday in the Tigers. Speaking of them as we talk more about how Kentucky and Missouri meet in a key game let’s look at Eli Drinkwitz’s club.
Much like Kentucky the Tigers are also 1-0 on the season. However they had a much tougher time in their opener beating Central Michigan 34-24. In fact the visitors led 14-7 early and only trailed by three early in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Connor Bazelak threw for 257 yards and two touchdowns. However the big star on the day was running back Tyler Badie, who ran for 203 yards and a score. On the other side of the ball linebacker Blaze Alldredge led the defense with 10 tackles, six for a loss and 3.5 sacks. Overall Missouri sacked the Chippewas nine times and intercepted Jacob Sirman twice.
Missouri has a new defensive coordinator in Steve Wilks, who spent 15 years in the NFL. Most notably he went 3-13 as the head man of the Arizona Cardinals in 2018. With Coen on the Rams’ staff they faced the St. Louis twice and were outscored 65-9. They played again in 2019 when Wilks was defensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns and the Rams won again. What does this all mean? At the end of the day Wilks should be pretty familiar with what Coen wants to do.
Wilks like the “high-risk, high reward” type of attack. In other words they’ll make some big plays but also give up quite a few. Case in point is last week’s game when Missouri had nine sacks and 14 tackles for a loss, the most in the SEC. However they also gave up 21 plays of 10 plus yards and eight plays of 20 plus, also the most in the SEC. The match up of ‘The Big Blue Wall” versus the Tigers defense is definitely the one to watch.
Not only does Kentucky and Missouri meet in a key game on Saturday but there’s also a grudge match aspect too.
The Last Time They Met And Series History
Going into last season Kentucky had won five straight games against Missouri. However a season ago the Tigers totally dominated the game on both sides of the ball winning 20-10. In all honestly it wasn’t really that close. For the game Mizzou outgained Kentucky 421-145 and held the ball for an amazing 43 minutes. In addition they completed half of their third down conversions and four of five on fourth down. They also ran 92 plays to Kentucky’s 36.
Not only did they dominate the game but the Tigers made sure they let Kentucky know about it. At one point in the second half Kelvin Joseph found himself trapped among a crowd of swarming players on the Missouri sideline. The Tigers let him know how bad they were beating them.
I hope this picture is everywhere inside the facility this week.
Make them pay pic.twitter.com/9KXhkf0I1c
— Mark Stoops Burner (@BBN_Commenter) September 7, 2021
Overall Kentucky leads the series 7-4 with Missouri. The history has been one of streaks with Kentucky winning five in a row before last year. Previously the Tigers had won three straight from 2012-2014 when they first joined the SEC.
Who Wins On Saturday?
Now that talked about how Kentucky and Missouri meet in a key game on Saturday it’s prediction time. The new look Kentucky offense really shined under Levis last Saturday. Of course that wasn’t against the best competition. The Tigers’ new look defense gives the Cats plenty of opportunities for the big play. With Missouri crowding the line of scrimmage with up to six defenders it’s up to the offensive line to show why they are one of the SEC’s best. However Missouri wants to force turnovers so the Cats must take care of the ball. This should be a close game throughout and with the home field and crowd advantage look for the Cats to go to 2-0 and avenge last year’s loss. Furthermore they firmly establish their spot right behind Florida and Georgia in the SEC East.
Thanks for checking out our preview here at Last Word On College Football. We’ll be back after the game with a full recap and an early look at next week’s game versus Chattanooga. In addition we’ll have updated bowl projections.