After an unexpected bye week on Saturday, the Missouri Tigers are back in action this week against the Kentucky Wildcats. Looking to continue their momentum after the LSU win, another challenge for Eli Drinkwitz and this Missouri football team awaits, as they look to snap the dreaded five-game losing streak against a program that has given them fits recently.
Kick-off on Saturday is set for 3:00 p.m. CST on the SEC Network. To preview the upcoming match up, we discussed things over with James Streble over at A Sea of Blue for a Q and A.
Sammy Stava: Kentucky is coming off a 34-7 win at Tennessee, beating a ranked Volunteer team for the first time since 1959 and it was their first win in Knoxville for the first time since 1984. Where does last Saturday’s win rank among the best in the Wildcats program?
James Streble: This win ranks, for me and I think for most of BBN, as a top three all timer. The last time Kentucky beat Tennessee in Knoxville, I was not quite two years old. And what makes it extra special is the fact that Kentucky didn’t win on a flukey play or that it was a back and forth affair: Kentucky absolutely dominated the game from start to finish. Kentucky was the better team in every facet of the game and in every position on the field. It was something to behold for sure.
SS: After an 0-2 start, Kentucky has rebounded nicely with two wins in a row, and the defense has played a huge role. After allowing a combined 71 points in the first two, only nine points have been scored against UK these last two games. What has been the biggest key in their defensive turnaround?
JS: The biggest turnaround on defense has been the secondary. UK’s front seven has performed well from the start of the season. The secondary was hyped up during the preseason as the best unit on the team. They very much underperformed against Auburn and especially Ole Miss. Something clicked against Mississippi State and carried over to the Tennessee game. One player that caught the ire of the fan base is LSU transfer Kelvin Joseph. He was beat time and time again in the first two contests and looked completely out of step. But he’s been phenomenal in the last two games. He’s had two straight games with an interception and one of those was a pick six in Neyland. To me he is the embodiment of the secondary thus far and I hope the positives continue.
SS: Through four games so far this season, senior QB Terry Wilson has a 64.4 completion percentage (58/90), 564 yards with three TDs and one interception, along with three rushing TDs. How would you grade Wilson’s overall performance so far this year?
JS: I’d give Terry Wilson a B. He had two costly turnovers in the loss to Auburn but he’s been much better ever since. Wilson isn’t a guy that’s going to throw for 350 yards and three touchdowns. But he can make things happen with his legs and he’s normally very efficient with the ball. A good game for Terry Wilson would be something like 15/20 for 210 yards, a touchdown, 65 yards rushing for a touchdown.
SS: Kentucky is currently a 5.5 point favorite and has won five straight over Mizzou. How do you see this game playing out on Saturday? Have a final score prediction?
JS: I don’t have a very good read on Missouri yet, to be honest. Getting Alabama right out of the gate is never good for any team and Mizzou got the short end of the stick there. Losing by double digits to Tennessee wasn’t a good look either considering how the Vols have performed thus far. But the win over LSU was a biggie, whether or not LSU is good or not doesn’t matter because it’s still LSU. I feel like Kentucky has turned a corner. Both games they lost were due to mistakes and both could have gone the Cats’ way if they had played just a tad better. I love Kentucky’s defense and I think they figured out offensively that Christopher Rodriguez needs to be the primary back. He has a punishing style that reminds us of Benny Snell. With his battering ram style and Kentucky’s offensive line, opposing defenses will have their work cut out for them. I’ll pick the score as 27-17 Kentucky.
SS: Coming in, what were the overall expectations for this Kentucky team in a 10-game SEC schedule? Where do you realistically see them at the end of the season record-wise and standings-wise finish in the SEC East?
JS: I thought that Kentucky had a chance going 7-3 with their returning talent. Going 0-2 really stung because I had Kentucky winning both of those games. Bouncing back in a big week in consecutive weeks did wonders for the mentality of this team. I now think the Cats will finish 6-4. To me this was a “prove it” year for Mark Stoops and his staff. They failed the first act of the season at 1-2. Act two is off to a great start.