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Expect another big day for Missouri’s Damarea Crockett and Ish Witter against Kentucky

The ground games have distinct advantages when Missouri and Kentucky kick off in Columbia.

NCAA Football: Kentucky at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Missouri has to be concerned with the current state of its defense — both its inability to stop the run and its sudden life without Michael Scherer and Terry Beckner Jr. The Wildcats could find quite a bit of traction for their run game, and that’s scary, especially for anybody who watched the MTSU game.

Luckily, the matchups are pretty good for the Tigers on the other side of the ball.

Kentucky’s defense has gone bend-don’t-break to the extreme. The Wildcats currently rank 115th in success rate and sixth in IsoPPP (which measures the magnitude of the successful plays). They have allowed 99 gains of 10-plus yards (58th in FBS) but only 12 of 30-plus (21st).

Big-play prevention doesn’t matter if you’re getting gashed for seven yards at any time, but at the least it can force your opponent to be patient and work methodically. Missouri had its positive and negative moments in that regard last week.

Defensive Line


  • Adrian Middleton (6’3, 303, So.) — 11.5 tackles, 1 TFL
  • Tymere Dubose (6’5, 320, So.) — 3.5 tackles


  • Matt Elam (6’7, 360, Jr.) — 2.5 tackles
  • Naquez Pringle (6’3, 320, Jr.) — 16.5 tackles, 1.5 TFL (0.5 sacks)


  • Courtney Miggins (6’5, 285, Sr.) — 16.0 tackles, 3 TFL, 4 PBU, 1 FF
  • Alvonte Bell (6’5, 260, Jr.) — 13.0 tackles, 0.5 TFL (0.5 sacks), 1 PBU, 1 QBH


  • Denzil Ware (6’2, 255, So.) — 24.5 tackles, 8 TFL (4.5 sacks), 4 QBH
  • Kengera Daniel (6’5, 260, So.) — 1.0 tackles

The run defense has been particularly bendy. Kentucky has allowed 39 rushes of 10-plus yards (68th) but only one of 40-plus (ninth). That can work nicely, but UK has been really inefficient: 122nd in rushing success rate, 126th in opportunity rate (percentage of carries gaining at least five yards), 127th in stuff rate (run stuffs).

Mizzou’s rapidly improving run game doesn’t create many 40-yarders, but the five-, six-, and seven-yard gains have become increasingly frequent, and the Tigers almost never get stuffed.

This seems like a pretty good match, then. Courtney Miggins is a pretty quick, versatile weapon at end, and nose guard Matt Elam is frickin’ enormous, but Mizzou’s Damarea Crockett and Ish Witter should be able to find running lanes, and if the last 2-3 games are any indication, they’ll take advantage of them.

NCAA Football: Eastern Kentucky at Kentucky
Matt Elam
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Linebacking Corps


  • Josh Allen (6’5, 230, So.) — 25.5 tackles, 5.5 TFL (4.5 sacks), 1 FF, 2 QBH
  • Jordan Bonner (6’5, 220, So.) — 1.0 tackles


  • Courtney Love (6’2, 242, Jr.) — 28.0 tackles, 1 TFL (1 sack), 1 QBH
  • Kash Daniel (6’1, 241, Fr.) — 4.0 tackles


  • Jordan Jones (6’2, 220, So.) — 57.0 tackles, 5.5 TFL (2 sacks), 2 PBU, 8 QBH
  • Eli Brown (6’2, 215, RSFr.) — 10.5 tackles, 1 FR

Kentucky’s linebacking corps has 2-3 pretty scary guys, but they’re more of a threat against the pass than the run. Josh Allen, Jordan Jones and hybrid DE/OLB Denzil Ware have combined for 19 TFLs and 11 sacks; UK only ranks 42nd in Adj. Sack Rate, but it’s a relative strength, and if Missouri is running the ball inefficiently, they could pressure Drew Lock.

Bonner, by the way, is listed as questionable with a knee injury, but that only really matters if Allen goes down.

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Kentucky
Josh Allen
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports



  • Derrick Baity (6’3, 182, So.) — 25.5 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 INT, 4 PBU, 1 QBH
  • Jordan Griffin (6’0, 177, Fr.) —1.0 tackles OR
  • Davonte Robinson (6’2, 187, Fr.)


  • Chris Westry (6’4, 195, So.) — 23.5 tackles, 0.5 TFL, 2 PBU
  • J.D. Harmon (6’2, 200, Sr.) — 19.0 tackles, 2 INT, 1 PBU, 1 QBH


  • Mike Edwards (6’0, 200, So.) — 42.5 tackles, 4 TFL, 8 PBU
  • Kendall Randolph (6’0, 182, Jr.) — 8.5 tackles, 1 TFL


  • Blake McClain (5’11, 200, Sr.) — 22.5 tackles, 0.5 TFL, 2 INT, 2 PBU
  • Marcus McWilson (6’0, 210, Sr.) — 24.5 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 INT

Kentucky ranks 67th in passing success rate and 22nd in Passing IsoPPP. The Wildcats’ opponent-adjusted Passing S&P+, though, ranks just 85th because they haven’t faced too many killer passing games.

One thing I like about UK’s secondary is its length — the starting corners are each at least 6’3. It makes it a unique matchup. Might Missouri’s slot receivers, coming off of a poor performance against MTSU, utilize a quickness/speed advantage to great effect? (Blake McClain is the designated nickel back, though, and he isn’t as big.)

Will UK’s size hinder Mizzou’s receivers too much, creating another situation in which Drew Lock leans too heavily on J’Mon Moore? Some interesting matchup questions here. But if Missouri is running the ball well, the answers are less of a concern.

NCAA Football: Kentucky at Florida
Derrick Baity & Mike Edwards
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Special Teams


  • Austin MacGinnis (5’10, 180, Jr.) —20-21 PAT, 5-7 FG under 40, 4-4 FG over 40; 38 kickoffs, 14 touchbacks (37%)


  • Grant McKinniss (6’1, 210, Fr.) — 31 punts, 40.2 average, 8 fair caught, 6 inside 20


  • Benny Snell Jr. (5’11, 220, Fr.) — 4 KR, 25.5 average (long: 32)
  • Sihiem King (5’9, 172, So.) — 4 KR, 23.8 average (long: 27)


  • Charles Walker (5’11, 203, Jr.) — 8 PR, 13.2 average, 1 TD (long: 65)

UK has been mostly solid in special teams. Austin MacGinnis has an above-average leg in both place-kicking and kickoffs, and the return trio of Snell, King, and Walker is efficient, if not incredibly explosive.

The main potential weakness comes in the punting game, though, where Grant McKinniss (that’s right, their legs are named MacGinnis and McKinniss) is averaging a decent 40 yards per kick but isn’t necessarily pinning opponents deep or forcing fair catches. It hasn’t been a huge issue, as UK isn’t allowing many return yards, but my efficiency numbers suggest their punting isn’t quite as decent as “40-yard average!” would lead you to believe.

NCAA Football: New Mexico State at Kentucky
Benny Snell Jr.
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports