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PREGAMIN’ KENTUCKY

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WE HAVEN’T WON THIS DAMN GAME IN 5 YEARS, SO LET’S FOCUS UP, Y’ALL

Keep Calm and Wear a Mask!

All Aboard the Hype Train!

I can’t really get a handle on what Mizzou’s media team is going for aesthetically, as each week’s hype video has a different flavor to it. But I loved the toned-down saturation and texture that this week’s hype video has. There’s also a really nice tone switch a la Travis Scott’s, “Sicko Mode,” or Frank Ocean’s, “Nights,” in the third act. Couple that with some really great footage from the immediate aftermath of the LSU win, and you’ve got yourself another winner.

So Fresh and So Clean, Clean

That teaser with the all-whites and the Drink text is so good. Looks like maybe all-whites next week? Droooooooooool.

Anyway, I’ve never been a huge fan of the gold, Tiger-stripe alternates. They’re... fine? Better than the mustard-yellows they used to rock, although that’s not a high bar to clear.

But those helmets?

What the “Experts” are Saying:

Well, it took some intervention from the boss men in Birmingham, but the Tigers are officially back at it this Saturday. Do you think any of the Tigers’ momentum will be zapped from the unexpected week off?

Josh Matejka, Deputy Manager: I think this is a concern that people have more during the actual bye week than the week of the actual game. I don’t know enough about brain chemistry to say, but I’d imagine there’s a come down effect from all of the adrenaline and excitement from a big win, and it probably only worsens when you have a long layoff until the next game. Once the reality of the next game sets in, every player should start to feel that juice.

In fact, the bye week probably allowed the coaching staff time to sort out some roster questions. Namely, what to do about the players who stepped up for the quarantined and actually produced against LSU? I’m not saying guys like Tauskie Dove and Boo Smith didn’t get a fair shake in practice, but after what they did on the 10th, it makes sense to give them plenty of run with the first-team and see what you’ve got. It also gives guys like Keke Chism, Damon Hazelton and Dominic Gicinto time to rejoin the offense and get their feet back under them. The more we separate from it, the more the bye week feels like an unmerited grace than a buzzkill.

Nate Edwards, Football Editor: Momentum isn’t a thing, so no. Most college football coaches agree to the old saying “you’re a different team every week” so it’s their job to create consistency as much as possible with the understanding that it’s hard to get that out of teenage athletes. And, if momentum is simply defined as “winning a big game” and that means it should lead to more winning of games, I’m sorry to tell you all, that doesn’t happen.

You all are Missouri fans so here’s my proof:

  • Beat #10 Nebraska in 2003. Lose to #1 Oklahoma 34-13 the next week.
  • Beat a favored Texas Tech team on the road in 2006 to get to 6-0 on the year. Lose to Texas A&M 25-19 the next week.
  • Beat #2 kansas in the greatest Missouri football game in the last 20 years to vault to #1 in the nation. Lose to #9 Oklahoma 38-17 in the Big XII Championship game
  • Beat #1 Oklahoma for Homecoming 2010. Lose to #14 Nebraska 31-17 the next week and 24-17 to Texas Tech the week after that
  • Upset #16 Texas A&M in College Station in 2011. Lose to Baylor 42-39 the next week
  • Clinch the SEC East against #19 Texas A&M in 2013. Get boat raced by Auburn the next week
  • Pull off one of the biggest come backs ever against #13 South Carolina in 2014. Get shut out by #13 Georgia the next week
  • Win a fun shoot out against Ole Miss in 2019. Lose five in a row.

So, no, I don’t perceive any momentum in getting a big win and Missouri typically loses the immediate week after a big emotional win like that. I think it’s in the best interest of everybody involved to have a Bye Week immediately after, calm down while savoring the victory, and have plenty of time to refocus/reset for the next opponent.

Aaron Dryden, Staff Writer: I don’t think so. I trust that Drink had a plan in order to keep his guys sharp over the week. I think the opposite, actually. Not only does it give the Tigers a chance to regain numbers in certain positions, but I also think it gives the offense more time to install more things to the playbooks, and sharpen their understanding of an offense that the players have learned in a handful of practices and Zoom meetings. I’m excited to see how that translates.

Kentucky occupies a frustrating place in the life of a Missouri Tiger fan — they can’t seem to be beat on the gridiron or the hardwood. Be honest with us: how do you view the Kentucky Wildcats in the landscape of SEC football?

NCAA Football: Kentucky at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Matejka: Quite frankly? I view them how most teams probably viewed Missouri coming into the SEC. And my acknowledgement of that feeling probably says something about where Kentucky could be going in the future.

There’s no question that Kentucky is, at the current moment, equal to or greater than Missouri from a program standpoint. Sure, they don’t have some of the more recent successes on a national stage, but they’re one of the three winningest SEC East teams of the past five years. They’re hard-nosed, liable to notch a few upsets per year and always go bowling... are those things you can say about Mizzou in that same time span?

The only real question I have about Kentucky is their ceiling. Sure, Kentucky is winning 7-9 games a year, but could they ever really threaten to win the SEC East? It doesn’t feel like it, but I’m sure the SEC didn’t foresee Mizzou winning back-to-back East championships in 2013 and 2014.

Nate Edwards: I hate them so much.

Oh, you want more? Ok.

Like I said on the podcast and in my preview, they are the Kansas State football of the SEC. If you don’t beat them, it’s because you’re either a bad team or made a ton of mistakes. So losing to them is more of a referendum on your entire program rather than just a frustrating L. Truthfully, I’m jealous that Kentucky’s coaching staff and athletic department are so content with recruiting well, winning 7-9 games a year, upsetting a few blue bloods, and occasionally pulling together a 10-win season or threatening to win the Division. I want that! So, when it comes to Kentucky, I will acknowledge the words of the philosopher Wes Mantooth: “Deep down in my stomach, with every inch of me, I pure, straight hate you. But, damn it, do I respect you.”

Aaron Dryden: I view Kentucky football as an approximate equal to Missouri. Which is actually an improvement from where Kentucky had been in football previously. That’s the benefit of having some continuity with a staff, and an opportunity to build a program up really from the ground up. That’s exactly what Mark Stoops has done, and it hasn’t always been pretty, but they are now at a point where it isn’t unreasonable to expect 7-8 win seasons consistently, and the occasional 10-11 win season if you get a special group of guys.

The difference between Kentucky football, and Missouri football however, are the expectations. If you have a five or six win season at Kentucky, you’re more likely to get a pass being that you’re not the main show in town. You fly somewhat under the radar, while Kentucky basketball garners most of the attention. At Mizzou, a six-win season can get you fired. That being said, both programs in my eyes are pretty much on an equal playing field, and the days of Missouri just chalking up a W on the schedule when they see Kentucky are long, long gone.

Kentucky is operating on some 2014 Mizzou Tiger energy right now — carrying a weird, inefficient offense on the back of a seriously frightening defense. How does Drinkwitz’s offense solve the puzzle of the Wildcats and end the losing streak?

NCAA Football: Kentucky at Tennessee Knoxville News Sentinel-USA TODAY NETWORK

Josh Matejka: Catch. The. Damn. Ball.

As Nate and BK pointed out early this week — subscribe to Before the Box Score everyone! — Kentucky’s defense is surprisingly susceptible to the pass... but they’re going to do everything they can to keep it short. They’re a beast against the run (Quinton Bohanna injury notwithstanding), so Missouri will need to rely on short, chunk gains through the air to keep the chains moving. Luckily, Connor Bazelak has proven himself adept at throwing quickly and outside the numbers, so the opportunities will be there. The real question is if Missouri’s receivers will perform like they did against LSU (no drops) or Tennessee (every drop, all of the drops). The answer could determine the outcome of the game.

Nate Edwards: They need to make every possession count. Kentucky plays ball control and field position about as well as anybody and successfully frustrates the hell out of most offenses. The Tigers could have won in 2018 if they just converted one third down in the second half; they lost because they kept giving Kentucky chances to hog the ball and tilt the field. Bazelak must make safe choices and not be tempted by the big play. The receivers can’t drop the ball, flat out. And Larry is going to need to bust one or two big plays on the ground for good measure. Kentucky rarely makes mistakes and keeps everything in front of them; Drinkwitz and Bazelak need to stay patient and not press.

Aaron Dryden: Lots and lots of Larry Rountree. Kentucky will be missing their starting nose tackle in Quinton Bohanna, and that’s a matchup that I’d like to see Missouri try and exploit. Rountree has been fantastic against high end competition, and this is a week where I would like to see him get going. I’d like to see him get 20+ touches, and Missouri really tries to control the clock. Couple in with a few play action passes, and I think there’s a recipe for success. I just think that Missouri’s best chance at a win is if they can get their running game going, and in particular Rountree.

PICK ‘EM! Kentucky opened as a 6.5 point favorite, but the line has moved in Mizzou’s direction. Can Missouri beat the spread and win outright for the second straight game?

NCAA Football: Missouri at Tennessee Knoxville News-Sentinel-USA TODAY NETWORK

Josh Matejka: I’ve been waiting to see where this line went all week, and as of Friday morning, it’s sitting at -5.5 to Kentucky. That’s a troublesome line if you’re a gambler, especially after Missouri last put 45 points on LSU and Kentucky has looked uneven thus far. Since I’m not brave enough to put money on this game, however, let me be a little bolder...

I kind of expect Missouri to win this game, and that doesn’t really make sense. Kentucky is, in all likelihood, a better team than Missouri. Their one common opponent was Tennessee, and we know how each of those games went. But combine the way Kentucky operates and how good the Tiger offense looked two weeks ago, and you’ve got some unearned confidence.

However.

For the purposes of this exercise, I need to pick what I think will happen, not what I expect should happen. And what I think will happen is no fun. Missouri goes up late on a touchdown drive, but Kentucky has managed the clock well enough to get one last crack at victory. Terry Wilson pulls out whatever magic he’s got going on, and leads Kentucky down the field for another last second field goal or touchdown. It’s going to hurt so bad, and I’m not ready for it. But, hey, at least Missouri will cover?

Nate Edwards: I should have jumped on this at 6.5 because now its 4.5 (Thursday morning) and I’m less confident in that. But I will still say that Missouri covers. Odom teams got blown out because the offense wasn’t competent enough to string together drives, instead relying on risky big plays. I think Drinkwitz will be better in that regard and at least keep it close.

Aaron Dryden: At this moment (Thursday evening), Missouri is a 5.5 point underdog, and that feels really high. I don’t see Kentucky scoring a lot of points, and I honestly think that they’re going to miss Bohanna on defense. I’m going to take Missouri to cover, and to win outright. I would probably do that if the line was at 6.5 too. I’m feeling real good about the Tigers, and I think you should too. 31-17, MIZ.