Missouri, looking for its third straight SEC East title, opens up conference play by traveling to Lexington to take on the upstart Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday. Here’s what you need to know before tomorrow night’s game.
Missouri (3-0) at Kentucky (2-1), Saturday 7:30 p.m. (SEC Network)
Weather: 66 degrees, 49 percent chance of rain
Line: The Wildcats are favored to win by 2.5 points
Numbers to know:
* The Tigers come into Saturday’s game on a four-game winning streak dating back to last season, which culminated with a victory over Minnesota in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl.
* Missouri is looking for its fourth straight victory against Kentucky since joining the SEC in 2012.
* Missouri ranks fifth in the country in points per game allowed on defense with 9.7.
* Kentucky ranks 68th in the country in yards per game allowed on defense with 380.3.
Storylines to watch:
* Will the Tigers offense be able to get on track?: Despite averaging 23.3 points per game on the season, the Tigers offense was stifled at home by UConn last Saturday. The offense put up a touchdown, while special teams contributed a safety. Also in last week’s game, the passing game was held to 185 yards, while the rushing attack had 85 yards on the ground.
But when your team is struggling offensively, the best way to get it back on track is with the running game. Missouri has a stable of running backs that can get the job done and possibly could have senior Russell Hansbrough in the backfield on Saturday night. On the season, Kentucky’s defense is giving up 187.3 yards per game on the ground. Last season at Faurot Field, Missouri had 156 rushing yards in a 20-10 victory against Kentucky. The opportunities will be there for the Tigers’ rushing game to capitalize.
* The play of both quarterbacks: Maty Mauk and Patrick Towles have struggled. Mauk has only passed for 474 yards, five touchdowns, and four interceptions with a 52.5 completion percentage. On the other hand, Towles has passed for 575 yards, three touchdowns, and four interceptions with a 51.7 completion percentage.
This week, both quarterbacks have had their share of criticism — Mauk for criticizing the Missouri fans for booing and Wildcat fans wondering if Mark Stoops should make a change at quarterback because of Towles’ poor play at Florida. Towles only completed 8-of-24 for 126 yards and two interceptions in a loss to the Gators. Mauk had similar stats last week against UConn, only completing 14-of-22 for 145 yards and an interception. Whichever quarterback makes better decisions and doesn’t turn the ball over will propel his team to victory.
The Tigers are road warriors: Missouri is looking to win its third straight SEC East title, and it begins with taking care of business on the road. The Tigers have won 11 straight road games, including their latest road win on Sep. 12 at Arkansas State, 27-20. Finally, when it comes to conference play, they have won eight straight road games, with their last win coming on Nov. 22, 2014 against Tennessee.
Even if the line is saying that Kentucky is the favorite, beware of the Tigers on the road.
My prediction: Missouri 24, Kentucky 20