Periodically I'll share my thoughts on where things stand for Kentucky football. With the Cats having a golden opportunity to move to 5-1 (2-1) overall, Kentucky's a solid favorite against Missouri.
Don't complicate things. Missouri has been a trainwreck this year.
If Missouri were to defeat Kentucky then you can point to me as the jinxer-in-chief or the one who contributor to a lax approach to the game. Whatever. Kentucky's opponent on Saturday is not an impressive team. Their personnel is better than it has shown through the first four games of the season, but you don't lose to Purdue at home 35-3 if you're decent, nor do you lose in the fashion Missouri did to South Carolina and Auburn if you have a pulse. The bye week is a rallying point, but Missouri has been a mentally fragile team in addition to the struggles they've had across most position groups. If you're one who's losing sleep for fear of a letdown, rest easy. Kentucky should win this game with relative ease. And, hey, if they don't, then they aren't as good as almost everybody thinks they are.
Field position numbers heavily favor Kentucky.
By this point it's not a secret and we outlined in this week in the 3-2-1. Kentucky is a field position, ball security team. Teams that win the field position battle win three-fourths of games played, and Kentucky is one of the nation's best teams in the field position category.
Turn the page to Missouri's statistical profile and the Tigers rank in the 90's in average field position numbers for offense and defense. Unless Kentucky gives up an inordinate number of explosive plays and doesn't create them itself, that's a significant advantage.
The turnover numbers are even more striking.
Kentucky is one of the nation's best teams in turnover margin through five games. They're +7 on the year in what has been quite a turnaround from recent history.
Conversely, Missouri is -9 in turnovers.
Turnovers can be tricky, unpredictable things, especially through five games. But they do speak to some realities: Athleticism and play makers on defense, ball security emphasis, risk factors, etc.
That kind of discrepancy also heavily favors the Cats.
Slow Damarea Crockett and you beat Missouri.
For all the talk about Drew Lock being one of the most promising young quarterbacks in the SEC, and it seems like we've been hearing about that for ages, the Tigers' second-year signal caller is completing just 53-percent of his passes and has thrown six picks (with, yes, 10 touchdowns) through four games.
Taking only Lock's games against FBS schools into account he has thrown three touchdowns against five interceptions and is completing less than 50-percent of his passes for a woeful yards per attempt average. Take their third-leading wide receiver (Dimetrios Mason) out of the mix, since he's no longer on the team, and it's unlikely that the Tigers will find much success passing the ball.
Running back Damarea Crockett has been keyed on by both of the Tigers' last two opponents, Purdue and Auburn, and that has rendered the Mizzou offense ineffective. Crockett isn't a small back but his highlight yards (yards achieved after the portion of the play when the offensive line has done its job) are in line with Sihiem King's, which says something about the kind of dynamic runner he can be. Ideally, Kentucky shuts things down at the line of scrimmage. But from there it will fall to the linebackers to make sound tackles to shut down the MU offense.
Force 3rd and medium/long and Missouri's in trouble.
This is a bit of a cliche because it's true for almost every team, but Missouri in particular has struggled on third and medium/long situations. They don't run much in passing situations, and when it's 3rd and 4 or longer the Tigers have completed just 13 of 35 passes with just one explosive play resulting.