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Pregamin’ Kentucky

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KENTUCKY’S IN TOWN, BARRY’S BOYS ARE HUNTIN’ FOR A SIGNATURE WIN AND WE’RE READY TO PREGAME, FOLKS

“Heaven must be a Missouri kind of place.”
Josh Matejka

Get Hype!

So Fresh and So Clean, Clean

Pro: OoOooOOOoOOooOO spooky!

Con: Missed opportunity for something zanier

‘Crootin Update

What the “experts” are saying

If there were a way to get Mizzou fans back on board after a month of losses, the Tigers did it Saturday. Other than the overall blowout, what was your biggest takeaway from the homecoming win?

Chris Bohkay, Featured Writer: The defense still isn’t looking amazing, but they didn’t look bad either. I don’t know how much of that has to do with Henderson getting hurt and how much of it has to do with the defense slowly starting to figure things out since the debacle in West Lafayette, but yeah, they’re looking all together less awful every week. A close second, is that the WR corps seems very strong — whoever is in charge of recruiting those guys is getting the job done!

Ryan Herrera, Football Beat Writer: When Albert Okwuegbunam looks like the force in the passing game we know he can be — WOW, does this offense look incredible. Without Emanuel Hall and Nate Brown in the fold against Memphis, Drew Lock still found a ton of success passing to Albert O over the middle, which also opened things up for Lock to pass to Jalen Knox out wide. It’ll take strong play from the entire receiving corps for Missouri to knock off Kentucky, but Okwuegbunam will be the x-factor in making this offense look like a well-oiled machine.

Josh Matejka, Editor: After weeks of uneven performances from Drew Lock, it was nice to see the offense finally put together another complete performance. The loss of Emanuel Hall and Nate Brown has been a killer, and it’s taken a while for Derek Dooley’s unit to really find its groove without them. A game against a shaky Memphis defense was just what the doctor ordered: all three backs looked good; Jalen Knox, Albert O and Johnathon Johnson played major roles; and the return of Richaud Floyd seemed to renew some sort of downfield threat. At this point, Drew Lock is going to be as good as the offense around him allows him to be, and it was a relief to see them clicking again.

Earlier this week, Barry Odom pointed to Mark Stoops and Kentucky as an example of a program that stuck through their coach in hard times, translating to success down the road. Do you think that comparison is fair, or is this apples and oranges?

Chris Bohkay: I’m going to be honest right here, [Editor’s Note: Strap in, folks!] I really, REALLY, hate when coaches do this, and Barry O does this a lot. Kim Anderson used to do this all the time as well, and all it does for me as a fan, is make me roll my eyes until they fall out of the back of my head, hit the floor and then become play things for my dog.

I know we all found Gary Pinkel boring as all get out (we do what we do, it’s my fault, I didn’t prepare them to play, etc), and that his answer after bad games/losses really didn’t tell you much... but it wasn’t self serving. He took responsibility and didn’t complain. Odom on the other hand, is a bit of an excuse maker and goal post shifter.

To the question at hand though, no, they are not similar. The expectations of both administrations and fans are wildly different. Like Kansas fans (gross), Kentucky fans really just hang with the football until Midnight Madness rolls around and then they can finally focus on basketball, their one true love. That doesn’t exist at Mizzou. There isn’t another program that is constantly in the championship mix and bringing in 5 star after 5 star that can shield you from the normal level of scrutiny you’d expect. Let’s also take a look at what Stopps has done in his time at Kentucky and see if this is something that Odom should have cited: A 32-37 all time record, 16-29 in conference; 0 bowl wins, 2 total appearances with a third this year; His best regular season record, 7-6 and 4-4 in conference. 6 years and that’s it.

So, is this level of “success” truly something that would be tolerated at Mizzou? If Kentucky wasn’t a basketball powerhouse, and let’s say more of a program on par with Mizzou’s basketball program in that time, would contract extensions have rolled in with each decently rated recruiting class that failed to produce? I’m guessing no.

Barring an epic disaster, Kentucky should win at a minimum 2 more games (with games at UT and MTSU still on the schedule) possibly three (they get a crappy Louisville team to end the season) so they should have their best season to date. Now if you look at their overall schedule, outside of a win at a Florida team that had not figured things out yet, the Wildcats haven’t really looked that good in games where the competition was next level, though their D has looked good, but again, what to make of their opponents.

In conclusion, no, this is not a valid comparison, and it upsets me to no end that Odom would do this. Though this does fit with his outburst from last year when he railed about how bare the cupboard, and the state of the program (contradicting the bravado and confidence he showed when hired). Expectations are higher at Mizzou, and he should understand that.

Ryan Herrera: I’d say that comparison is fair at this point, but emphasis on the, “at this point.” Odom still has a few years until he reaches where Stoops is right now, so I can give him the benefit of the doubt and hope that he can turn this program into a contender again. However, the Missouri faithful are not all as generous as I am, so Odom might have to make up that ground a little faster than Stoops did if he wants to gain the fan base’s trust.

Josh Matejka: It’s complicated, because while this is technically a similar situation, it’s impossible to separate from the larger program context — which is exactly what Odom is trying to do here. Kentucky football is an afterthought at a school where NBA stars are rotating in and out every year, and every season carries the weight of net-cutting expectations. Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart wisely recognized that and let Mark Stoops build a program that has gained some traction.

But let’s also be honest here: is Kentucky going to get any better than it is right now? Let’s assume the Wildcats lose to Missouri and Georgia, giving them a 9-3 record on the year. Next year, they’re losing 8 starters on defense and 5 on offense at least. And that’s without the consideration that Benny Snell has the option to go pro after running over the SEC every year. Their recruiting classes haven’t ranked above 11th in the SEC for at least 4 years — and to be fair, neither have Mizzou’s — so unless we just automatically assume Stoops is a Gary Pinkel diamond-in-the-rough guy, we can assume they’ll take a step back over the next two years.

I don’t want to disparage Kentucky, because they’re honestly in a better spot right now than Missouri. But the Missouri program should be one that carries higher expectations. If Kentucky’s five year cycle is, “bad-bad-average-average-good,” Missouri’s should be, “average-good-good-good-great.” Or at least some variation of that. Does Barry Odom deserve more time to get there? Probably. Does he need to be comparing his standards to Kentucky’s? Probably not.

Kentucky has looked vulnerable recently, but still features one of the SEC’s best offensive weapons in Benny Snell and one of the best defenses Mizzou will face this year (4th in S&P+). How does Mizzou counter Kentucky’s strengths and come away with a big win?

Chris Bohkay: For Mizzou to win, they’re going to have to load up in the box, and really not beat itself. Johnson and Okwuegbunam can’t fumble/drop the ball, Lock can’t make stupid throws and the secondary has to be better than it’s been all year. Basically, Mizzou has to have the anti-Georgia game at home.

Ryan Herrera: To counter Benny Snell, I think Missouri has to keep going with what’s been working as far as the run defense. They have been susceptible to big runs over the past few weeks, but at the same time, they’ve done a good job of clogging the running lanes and keeping opposing attacks in the air. Now, that doesn’t always bode well given how inconsistent the secondary has been, but if the Tigers can keep Snell in check, it will go a long way toward helping Missouri pick up the win.

Josh Matejka: Luckily, there won’t have to be a ton of scheming to stop Benny Snell. Missouri’s defense has been fairly successful at stuffing running backs, and while Snell is probably the best they’ve seen this year, it will be more of a battle of wills than strategy.

The defense is more of a problem. Even in its loss to Texas A&M in College Station, Kentucky limited a good offense to 20 points in overtime. Kentucky is especially good at creating pressure and creating havoc in the passing game, meaning Drew Lock will need to have the type of poised effort he hasn’t really had in his college career. Having an absurdly balanced rushing attack helps matters, but Lock will need to rely heavily on Okwuegbunam and Johnson and stay efficient to keep the sticks moving.

And maybe the sneaky biggest key to winning this game? Tucker McCann. Kentucky has the 3rd best red zone defense in the country, and the Tigers have had their own troubles punching the ball in this year. If McCann can stay reliable and tally up field goals, Lock and the offense might only need two or three touchdowns to outrun the Wildcats offense.

PICK ‘EM! Give us a score prediction and which position unit is the most important for Mizzou.

Chris Bohkay: Until Mizzou can show up against a team with a pulse, I can’t pick em to win a big game like this, but I’m hoping I’m wrong. If Mizzou is to win then the defensive backs limited big plays and wrapped up Snell when he got past the front four. Kentucky, 27 - Mizzou 24

Ryan Herrera: 38-27, Missouri. The running backs need to continue their streak of being the strength of this Missouri offense, and I’m thinking they combine for well over 200 yards.

Josh Matejka: I’m very torn. By all accounts, Missouri should win this game. They’ve got home field advantage, they have motivation to break a three-year losing streak and last week’s game against Memphis was the most complete effort they’ve produced all year. Plus, Kentucky is coming off a loss, followed by a lackluster win against a mediocre Vanderbilt team in Lexington.

But I’m also becoming more of a realist about this unit. After weeks — years, really — of thinking they’ll prove themselves against a good opponent, we’ve yet to see it. The offense has yet to put up big numbers against a good defense, and the defense has yet to stop a quarterback, no matter how unheralded. This could be the week that they finally get it done, but I have no reason to believe it’s going to happen until it actually happens. I’m not confident, but I’ll say Kentucky 24-Missouri 20. If the Tigers win, it’s because Drew Lock finally breaks through and has a performance that proves he can stoke the Tigers to victory against a great defense.