1st Down: Ryan Walters vs Eddie Gran
This is a matchup of intellect that I’m very much looking forward to seeing. Eddie Gran, the offensive coordinator for Kentucky, is the operator of the most consistently potent rushing attack in the conference. They rank first in the SEC in rushing yards per game (206), second in yards per rush (4.76), and third in rushing touchdowns (9). It should be mentioned, that as much as they enjoy running the ball, Kentucky really struggles with throwing the football. They are last in yards per game (142.5), second to last in total passing yards this season (570), and tied for last with only three passing touchdowns.
Kentucky likes to run it, and they are quite good at it. I’m very interested to see the game plan of Walters to stop the run and what sort of things they will do to try and keep the Wildcats in situations where they HAVE to pass.
2nd Down: Missouri Defense vs Terry Wilson
It is very well established the Kentucky is a run heavy team, who doesn’t really want to throw the ball. The captain of that ship is none other than dual-threat quarterback, Terry Wilson. For the Missouri defense, he has to be thought of almost as another running back in the backfield. Assignments need to be strong, and he has to be accounted for when Kentucky runs their option. Discipline is going to need to be at a high level, or Wilson’s legs could give them trouble.
Now, his arm? That’s a different story. Like mentioned above, the Tiger defense wants to try and make Kentucky as one dimensional as possible, and a great way of doing that is getting after the quarterback. They need hurries, hits and sacks on Wilson, and while doing so, pass rushers really have to stay in their lanes, because with a dual threat quarterback like Wilson, I doubt he’ll hesitate to take off in run if you give him free reign.
Missouri hasn’t had to face a true dual threat quarterback this season. Mac Jones, Jarrett Guarantano, and Myles Brennan are all pocket passers with limited mobility. That’s obviously not the case this week, and because of it, this is a chance for Missouri to display how they can limit a team like Kentucky where their offensive philosophy is very very clear.
3rd Down: Connor Bazelak vs Kentucky Defense
LSU is one thing. We’ve established that their defense is not very good right now. What about a good defense like Kentucky?
This is Bazelak’s first real test as the starter. Can you move the ball effectively against a quality SEC defense? Can you avoid turnovers against a team that is really good at forcing them? (10 takeaways so far) All valid, and all interesting questions. Now that there is a little bit of film on him, it’ll be interesting to see what the Kentucky defense tries to take away from him. He will have his full arsenal of weapons back into the fold, and it’s gonna be on Bazelak to distribute the ball to all of them. He’s going to benefit with Kentucky missing their best defensive tackle in Quinton Bohanna. There are some things moving in his direction, unlike the LSU game. Can he take advantage of it? I certainly am excited to see so.