Each game has certain matchups within it that are oh so very important to the outcome. Matchups so important that they can be the difference between a win and a loss. For every game this season, I’ll be taking a look at what I consider to be the three most important matchups regarding an individual or even between position groups.
Missouri’s Defense vs Will Levis
The past two weeks, Missouri’s defense has disrupted Vanderbilt QB AJ Swann and South Carolina QB to the point that both offenses were pretty much inept. This week against Will Levis and the Kentucky offense, they need to continue that trend in order to take a big step towards bowl eligibility.
The blueprint to that success is actually pretty clear. Missouri’s defensive line has to be able to consistently win with four rushers, play their gap responsibility well to stop the run, and the secondary has to avoid penalties as well. When they do all of those three things at a good to great level like they have the past two weeks, they are absolutely suffocating. That’s the formula.
I’m really looking forward to seeing if Missouri can continue their streak of dominant play on defense. If they can, Missouri is in prime place to get that fifth win.
Brady Cook vs Kentucky’s Defense
This Missouri offense looked like a new unit against South Carolina and that was directly related to Brady Cook playing solid, turnover-free football. That’s what he’s going to have to do that against what looks to be a stiffer test in Kentucky. The Wildcats defense ranks in the top 20 in opponent yards per game and is a stout unit. They’re also allowing right at 20 points a game, which would be good for 22nd in the country. Point being, this is a pretty good defense that will travel up to Columbia.
The objective will be the same objective it was for Cook last week. Play smart football and avoid turning the ball over. He did a really nice job in the zone read game last week, and that needs to continue again this week. When Cook doesn’t turn the ball over, he’s good enough to make plays for this offense in the run and pass game. It’s when he starts turning it over, is when this offense struggles and like we’ve mentioned in the past... They just aren’t capable enough on offense to absorb those kinds of backbreaking plays.
Eli Drinkwitz vs Mark Stoops
For the past couple of years, these two coaches have matched up pretty evenly and produced a couple of really entertaining games. There’s been an element of smash mouth, downhill, physical football that these games take on and this year I think it will be no different.
With both offenses being... inconsistent... at best, and both defenses being as good as they are, I think there’s a decent shot that this game turns into one of those battles over field position that devolve into a slugfest. There will probably be many punts and a lot of conservative play, too. It also wouldn’t surprise me at all if this game comes down to a couple of possessions where their level of aggressiveness is tested.
Drinkwitz has to find a way to call a great game and coach a clean game himself as well. When we talk about coaching a clean game, it means having your calls organized and into the huddle with enough time. Making good use of the clock. Knowing when and when not to push for points based off the situation. In tight games like this one is projected to be, your coach can be the reason you win or lose a game.
This is the type of game, kind of similar to Florida last season, where Drinkwitz can have a legit impact on the game to the point that the result changes.