Cats Illustrated helps you get ready for Kentucky-Missouri, set for tonight at Kroger Field. It's an SEC East game with ramifications for standings and, later perhaps, the bowl pecking order.
Missouri at Kentucky
Saturday, October 7th, 7:30 p.m.
TV: SEC Network (Taylor Zarzour, Andre Ware, Olivia Harlan)
Stadium: Kroger Field
Coaches: Mark Stoops (23-31, 5th season), Barry Odom (5-11, 2nd season)
2017 records: Kentucky 4-1 (1-1 SEC), Missouri 1-3 (0-2 SEC)
Weather Forecast: 80° (feels like 83°), 10% chance of rain at kickoff (40% by 9 p.m.), 60% humidity, S 11 MPH
REQUIRED PREGAME READING
BETTING LINES (as of Saturday)
Westgate: UK -9, 60.5 O/U, UK -330 (Money Line)
Caesar's: UK -9, 60 O/U, UK -320
William Hill: UK -9.5, 60.5 O/U, UK -350
— Handling a new role. Heavy favorite in an SEC game. Well, the line's down to 9 points on most betting platforms so it's not the two-touchdown open that we saw at the start of the week, but Kentucky is a bigger favorite in this game than you have almost ever seen the Cats in an SEC game over the past few seasons.
— Can Cats turn in a dominant performance? Kentucky has played down to the level of its competition more than once this year. No knock on Southern Miss, Eastern Kentucky or Eastern Michigan, but not once has Kentucky won comfortably. Missouri has been blown out a couple of times and lost handily at home to South Carolina. Is this the week the Cats win by a comfortable margin?
— Missouri's weaknesses, at least some of them, seem to line up with Kentucky's strengths in a way that favors the Cats. Mizzou is a poor field position, turnover team. Kentucky's strong in both areas. Mizzou has been largely one dimensional this year while Kentucky has shut down the run game as well as almost any team in the country. The Cats want to get their run game on track and Mizzou's defense has been even worse.
KEYS TO THE GAME
— Improve on first down. Kentucky has got to start performing better on first and second down at some point this year and this is a good week to start doing it.
— Deliver a strong blow in the first half. Missouri has been awful this year but a bye week might help the Tigers come in with focus and energy they might not otherwise have. One of their problems this year has been their tendency to wilt when things go wrong. If Kentucky can deliver a strong first half body blow before the Tigers' confidence carries into the second half, they could run away with it.
— The offensive line needs to play better. They don't need to play great to win this game. But at some point the line has to start showing competence for Kentucky to accomplish most of its preseason goals. If they don't look good this week, that's a bad sign for the rest of the year.