LEXINGTON, Ky. — The Wildcats will be vying to stay near the top of the SEC East while the Tigers are looking for their first conference win.
Kentucky (4-3, 3-2 SEC) faces Missouri (2-5, 0-3 SEC) at noon ET Saturday in Columbia, Mo. Kentucky’s Benny Snell and Missouri’s Damarea Crockett will give fans a glimpse at two of the SEC’s top freshman running backs as Mark Stoops’ squad will look to get one win closer to bowl eligibility.
Joe Mussatto: Coming off a home loss to Middle Tennessee State, what’s the mood around the program and fan base?
Gabe DeArmond: I’d say not so good would be an accurate representation. People were down after blowout losses to LSU and Florida, but most understood those teams are better than Missouri. But Middle Tennessee is a different level of angst. There haven’t been any outward signs that the locker room is split or anything, but there’s certainly talk and worry that’s the case. Missouri needs a win in the worst way. Most fans have given up any hope of getting back to a bowl game. Honestly, most don’t expect Missouri to win another game this year.
Mussatto: Are you surprised Missouri is favored Saturday against Kentucky?
DeArmond: Yeah, I was. I guess it says more about Kentucky’s dreadful record outside of Lexington than anything else. I know you get three or four points for being at home, but I was expecting maybe a pick ’em line. Did not think Missouri would be favored.
Mussatto: Kentucky and Missouri both have breakout freshman running backs in Benny Snell and Damarea Crockett. How important is Crockett in Missouri’s offense?
DeArmond: He’s getting more important every week. The way the coaches talked early in the year, I don’t think they had much faith in the run game. It appears they probably do now. Crockett was the first Mizzou back to run for 145 yards in consecutive games since James Wilder, and the first true freshman ever to do it. He certainly looks to be the top tailback going forward.
Mussatto: The Wildcats have struggled to get a passing game going and have been reliant on the run. How does that stack up against the Tigers’ strengths defensively?
DeArmand: Right now, it’s a little bit of a question exactly what Missouri’s defensive strengths are. The Tigers were a top-10 defense last year, installed a new scheme and now sit at 110 in total defense. They’ve probably been better against the pass than the run, but I wouldn’t say they’ve been great against either. Michael Scherer is almost certainly out for this game, Terry Beckner and John Gibson may be. That’s three starters off a defense that was already seriously struggling. So, if I’m a Kentucky fan, I’m expecting to see my team score some points.
(Editor’s note: After this interview, Missouri announced that Scherer and Beckner are out for the year with torn ACLs.)
Mussatto: How do you see Saturday playing out?
DeArmond: Missouri isn’t playing well and can’t have much confidence. The defense hasn’t been very good lately and the offense hasn’t been good against Power 5 teams all year. I won’t be shocked if Missouri wins, but I don’t know how anybody can predict it at this point in time. I think the wrong team is favored in the game.