Entering this season, Kentucky was one of the most important games on Missouri’s schedule to point to. After the loss to Vanderbilt, it’s even more so now. Mizzou (5-2, 2-1 SEC) aims for a bounce back win on Saturday night at Kentucky (3-4, 1-4 SEC), as the Tigers look to beat the Wildcats for the first time since the 2014 season.
Here’s what James Streble from A Sea of Blue had to say about Kentucky so far this season and the Wildcats’ chances on Saturday night.
Sammy Stava: Coming off a 10-3 season, Kentucky sits at just 3-4 through seven games this season. Has this been a major disappointment so far, or was taking a step back expected after losing Josh Allen and Benny Snell?
James Streble: Mark Stoops and the rest of the coaching staff get a major pass for the subpar year due to the injury of starting quarterback Terry Wilson. Wilson helped win 10 games for the Cats last season and the entire offense was built around him and Lynn Bowden. Wilson was looking to take the next step as a top tier SEC quarterback but went down with a season ending knee injury in just the second game.
Add to the fact that the backup QB, Sawyer Smith, has also missed two games because of multiple injuries, then one cannot be too disappointed in how the season has gone. If the Cats were sitting at 3-4 with a healthy Terry Wilson, then the coaching staff would be in trouble with the fan base.
SS: Kentucky has had Missouri’s number recently, winning four straight meetings. Why do you think Mark Stoops has had the upper hand over Barry Odom as of late?
JS: I do concede that there was a little bit of luck involved on Kentucky’s end with last season’s victory. Other than that, I really feel like Kentucky has had an edge in the talent department over the last several years. There are multiple former Wildcats that were drafted last season. Guys like Josh Allen, Mike Edwards, Lonnie Johnson, Benny Snell, etc... are all on NFL rosters. They had a lot to do with the success over Mizzou.
SS: Missouri is looking to bounce back after a horrific loss at Vanderbilt, and Kentucky is looking to keep their bowl hopes alive with a win here. The desperation level should be high for both teams, but who do you think needs this game more?
JS: I think Kentucky needs to beat someone in the conference other than Arkansas. While Missouri took a bit of a step back last week, they at least have some quality wins on their schedule. Kentucky doesn’t have one quality win. Missouri is just one win away from being bowl bound (appeal pending) while Kentucky still has a lot of work to do to get there. Getting a win against a good team should be enough to propel them in that direction.
SS: Who do you think Missouri will see start at quarterback on Saturday? Sawyer Smith or Lynn Bowden Jr.?
JS: This is the million dollar question and honestly, I have no idea. The coaches have been playing games with information about Smith’s health. The week of the Georgia game, offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said that Smith was full go and that we would see both him and Bowden at QB. Then he didn’t play a snap against Georgia. Some think that because the weather was so bad at Georgia and a passing game was almost non-existent, the staff decided to just go with Bowden and let him win it with his legs.
With Missouri’s ability to put up points, one would think that Kentucky would need their best passing attack ready to go on Saturday, but I don’t know what to believe. If you put a gun to my head, I would say Bowden starts, but we will finally see Sawyer Smith behind center at some point.
SS: How do you see this game playing out on Saturday? Do you have a final score prediction?
JS: Defensively, the Cats are as good as they have been all season. They were able to stuff the Georgia run for three and half quarters and the secondary is much improved. Kelly Bryant is banged up, so I like the match up with our defense. The Kentucky offense vs. the Missouri defense is what worries me. You can run Lynn Bowden’s offense against Arkansas because of how bad they are, but we all saw what happened against Georgia’s defense. While I don’t think Missouri’s defense is as good as Georgia’s, I still think it’s one of the better defenses in the East.
If Kentucky can’t throw the ball, and until I hear or see otherwise I’m going to go on that assumption, then I see it being a 24-10 Missouri win.
Thanks to James Streble for the time, and you can follow him and A Sea of Blue on Twitter for a Kentucky perspective this week.