The numbers come tomorrow, but here's the overview so you know what you're getting yourself into overall: Kentucky currently ranks 91st overall in the F/+ rankings -- 46th on offense, 115th on defense, 56th on special teams. The Wildcats are decent against the pass but quite leaky against the run, and they don't sack you on passing downs, you're going to find open receivers against passive coverage.
And while the offensive coordinator is tied to pass-happy offenses in his past, Kentucky's run is quite dangerous ... when the Wildcats choose to use it, anyway.
Jalen Whitlow (6'2, 220, So.): 67-for-103 (65%), 690 yards, 5 TD, 1 INT, 8 sacks (5.6 per attempt); 55 carries, 416 yards (7.6), 5 TD
Maxwell Smith (6'4, 218, So.): 70-for-129 (54%), 873 yards, 6 TD, 1 INT, 10 sacks (5.9 per attempt); 5 carries, 12 yards
Because this is the SEC in 2013 -- Your quarterback gets hurt! And YOUR quarterback gets hurt! -- Kentucky has naturally been dealing with some injuries at quarterback. Jalen Whitlow has become a pretty impressive dual-threat quarterback, but he's coming off of an ankle injury and might not be 100 percent yet. (Then again, he had an 88-yard touchdown run against Alabama State last week, so maybe he's just fine.) Meanwhile, Maxwell Smith, who tore an ankle ligament last October, was dealing with a shoulder injury earlier this year as well.
If Whitlow's healthy, he brings a mobile component to the table that Missouri hasn't dealt with in a while. He can both scramble and work the zone read. Kentucky's running game is infinitely better with him behind center, but if the Wildcats fall behind and have to go pass-happy, there's a chance they bring in Smith. They rotated both against Mississippi State a couple of weeks ago, but Whitlow was good enough against Alabama State (7 carries for 127 yards, 16-for-26 passing for 186, albeit with three sacks) that it's probably his job to lose right now.
Offensive coordinator Neal Brown tries to protect his young QBs as much as possible, throwing frequently on standard downs and running frequently on passing downs. It's what Josh Henson does, too, really, and it's the easiest way to steal free yardage. Kentucky's success will come down to the pure skill level of the players with the ball in their hands; the scheme is sound.
Raymond Sanders (5'8, 187, Sr.): 77 carries, 370 yards (4.8), 2 TD; 20 targets, 11 catches, 65 yards (3.3 per target)
Jojo Kemp (5'10, 190, Fr.): 72 carries, 390 yards (5.4), 2 TD; 5 targets, 2 catches, 20 yards (4.0)
Jonathan George (5'10, 209, Sr.): 19 carries, 56 yards (2.9), 1 TD; 4 targets, 3 catches, 65 yards (16.3)
Dyshawn Mobley (5'11, 209, So.): 12 carries, 54 yards (4.5)
D.J. Warren (6'0, 226, Jr.)
Cody Jones (5'11, 215, Sr.)
I was really impressed with Kentucky's running backs last season in Columbia; they had almost nothing to work with, but they were pretty good when given space to run. The results have been scattershot this season, and the averages aren't amazing, but a lot of that has to do with the schedule at hand. Missouri's been tremendous against the run for most of SEC play; that will have to continue.
Javess Blue (6'0, 190, Jr.): 46 targets, 28 catches, 345 yards (7.5 per target), 2 TD
Alexander Montgomery (6'2, 210, Fr.): 25 targets, 16 catches, 137 yards (5.5), 2 TD (out)
A.J. Legree (6'1, 189, So.): 9 targets, 4 catches, 36 yards (4.0)
Ryan Timmons (5'10, 185, Fr.): 44 targets, 27 catches, 295 yards (6.7), 2 TD (likely out)
Daryl Collins (5'11, 205, So.): 4 targets, 1 catch, 5 yards (1.3)
Ronnie Shields (6'5, 227, Jr.): 4 targets, 1 catch, 7 yards (1.8)
Jordan Aumiller (6'4, 232, Sr.): 13 targets, 8 catches, 70 yards (5.4)
Anthony Kendrick (6'3, 233, Sr.): 12 targets, 7 catches, 120 yards (10.0)
Steven Borden (6'3, 237, Jr.): 4 targets, 3 catches, 63 yards, 1 TD (15.8)
If the idea is that you can run on Missouri if you can make them move to a nickel look ... well, Missouri will be in a nickel pretty frequently on Saturday. Kentucky doesn't have many individual weapons to fear in the passing game -- it's an efficiency-based spread attack, so prepare yourself for lots of seven-yard gains -- but if Whitlow is making good decisions, Mizzou could get caught on its heels in quite a few drives. The question, of course, will be what happens when Kentucky gets inside Mizzou's 30 or 40 and the Tigers ratchet up the pressure. That's where young quarterbacks look really young, and both Whitlow and Smith are sophomores.
Darrian Miller (6'5, 284, Jr.): 22 career starts
Kevin Mitchell (6'6, 289, Sr.): 21 career starts
Jack Gruenschlaeger (6'11, 350, So.)
Between Kentucky's solid run blocking and quick passing, there's a chance Missouri's defensive line doesn't have its best game of the season. This isn't an amazing line, but it's certainly not bad. The experience level isn't particularly high, but again, the offense is pretty good overall, and considering the injury issues at quarterback and nondescript receiving corps, one has to credit the line and running backs for quite a bit of that.
Za'Darius Smith (6'6, 254, Jr.): 26.5 tackles, 5.5 TFL (5.5 sacks), 1 PBU, 5 QB hurries
Farrington Huguenin (6'4, 262, So.): 8.0 tackles, 1 PBU, 1 QB hurry
Alvin Davis (6'4, 265, Jr.): 7.0 tackles
Kentucky can rush the passer quite well if it can leverage you into passing downs. And Missouri has been prone to getting sacked on passing downs as well (especially with James Franklin at quarterback). So ... yeah, avoid those situations.
Of course, it's pretty easy to avoid those situations because, despite some serious beef at defensive tackle, it's pretty easy to open up holes against the UK line. The back seven can swarm to the ball relatively well, but there will be creases for Henry Josey, Marcus Murphy, and Russell Hansbrough to find. (They don't need much of a crease, either.)
The line is better against the pass, but for the most part I think the linebackers are better against the run. As you can see, the SLB barely plays -- Kentucky goes Nickel quite a bit -- but the defense's goal is to filter any play to Avery Williamson, and it does a decent job of that. The run defense ranks low overall thanks in part to the leaky line, but Williamson is certainly solid, as are the weakside linebackers.
Kentucky plays a lot of defensive backs but doesn't play them very aggressively. If Mizzou's line can keep the pass rush at bay, either Maty Mauk or James Franklin will find open receivers. (Of course, at the same time, there's always a chance that the rush gets to Mauk a bit and spooks him into reverting to the "flee back and to the right" tendencies we saw against South Carolina.)
Joe Mansour (6'2, 189, Sr.): 22-for-23 PAT, 10-for-11 FG (8-for-8 under 40)
Landon Foster (6'1, 208, So.): 42 punts, 42.9 average, 9 fair caught, 4 inside 20
Joe Mansour (6'2, 189, Sr.): 39 kickoffs, 60.8 average, 8 touchbacks (21%)
Demarco Robinson (5'10, 158, Jr.): 5 returns, 25.6 average (long: 39)
Javess Blue (6'0, 190, Jr.): 13 returns, 23.8 average (long: 43)
Raymond Sanders (5'8, 187, Sr.): 2 returns, 20.5 average (long: 22)
Demarco Robinson (5'10, 158, Jr.): 8 returns, 10.5 average (long: 33)
Javess Blue (6'0, 190, Jr.): 6 returns, 3.5 average (long: 11)
Daryl Collins (5'11, 205, So.): 3 returns, 3.7 average (long: 8)
Joe Mansour is a better place-kicker than Andrew Baggett, and the kick returners are scary. But Marcus Murphy should get return opportunities, so that's nice.
BTBS preview coming tomorrow, but this game will hinge quite a bit on Kentucky's run game and pass rush. If both of those are doing well, Kentucky will stay in this game a while. But if Mizzou's leveraging Kentucky into second- or third-and-long, and Mauk/Franklin are staying upright in the pocket (or out of it), the Tigers roll.