LEXINGTON, Ky. — Missouri has been in the SEC since July 2012, but Mark Stoops said the Tigers still resemble the conference they left.
The connections run deep between Stoops, Missouri and its former Big 12 affiliation.
Josh Heupel, a former Oklahoma quarterback and offensive coordinator, is in his first year as Missouri’s offensive coordinator. Stoops and Heupel were on Arizona’s staff in 2005: Stoops as defensive coordinator and Heupel as tight ends coach.
“I love Josh,” Stoops said. “Josh is a good friend.”
Before that, Heupel played for Mark’s brother and later coached under Bob Stoops until he was fired after the 2014 season.
Bob Stoops, the longest-tenured coach in college football, is familiar with the Big 12 offenses Missouri resembles. Mark was asked Monday if he’d reach out to Bob for tips on facing the Big 12-style spread attack.
“Some,” he said. “Obviously, Oklahoma’s had their struggles this year defensively, for sure, but that’s the way it goes in their league. Last year they were No. 1 in the Big 12, this year they’re probably last, but that league is just ridiculous. Offensively, it’s ridiculous.”
The Sooners surrendered 59 points and 854 yards last week to Texas Tech, so it might not be the best time to ask big brother for advice.
Despite Missouri’s struggles as the SEC’s only winless team in conference, the Tigers pose a different offensive attack than the run-heavy ones Kentucky faced in its last two games against Vanderbilt and Mississippi State.
“You’re seeing a lot of characteristics of a Big 12 offense: extremely fast, extremely wide splits at times — they’re spread all over the field — and balance,” Stoops said.
Missouri QB Drew Lock leads the conference with 257 passing attempts and only trails Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly in passing yards per game. Tigers freshman RB Damarea Crockett is coming off a 156-yard performance against Middle Tennessee and figures to become the key component in Missouri’s attack.
No matter if it’s the run or the pass, Stoops and Kentucky are preparing for a spread look.
“They rotate in guys, and they have different ways to stress you,” Stoops said. “Put in other receivers. And when it’s not going too well, still running the ball. Still running a lot of plays.”
The Wildcats will travel to Missouri as slight underdogs despite winning four of their last five games. The Tigers are in last place in the SEC East and are coming off a home loss to Middle Tennessee.
A win would give Kentucky its first three-game SEC win streak since 1999.