Mizzou football has a team in front of it this week that hasn’t been able to throw the football this year. The biggest reason is that its best receiver is now the quarterback.
Mizzou football will look to get back on track against a team it hasn’t beaten in five years. It’s been an unfortunate series the past few years for the Tigers, but they can turn things around Saturday.
The Tigers head to Lexington to take on Kentucky, a 3-4 squad that isn’t as good as it has been in the past. Part of the problem is injuries at the most important spot in football.
Kentucky lost quarterback Terry Wilson Jr. for the year with a knee injury and backup Sawyer Smith has a hurt wrist. That means wide receiver-turned QB Lynn Bowden probably will start against Mizzou this weekend.
Here’s a look at the Kentucky Wildcats:
It’s likely Smith can’t go Saturday, so Kentucky will keep its wide receiver at quarterback.
Bowden had a career day against Arkansas but followed that up with a poor performance against Georgia last week, going 2 of 15 for 17 yards.
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He’d be aided by the play of running backs A.J. Rose and Kavosiey Smoke, who have been effective at times. But the Tigers will first look here to stop the Wildcats. Bowden rushed for 99 yards against the Bulldogs, while the running backs combined for less than 40 total.
With Bowden moving under center, that leaves a void outside at receiver, and the Wildcats haven’t filled it.
Their best option is Ahmad Wagner, who has 12 receptions for 248 yards and two scores on the season. Only Josh Ali and tight end Justin Rigg have more than 100 yards receiving this season.
The Kentucky defense has shined this year, and that is a bit of a surprise considering the Wildcats lost defensive player of the year Josh Allen and defensive coordinator Matt House. But players have stepped up.
Kentucky hasn’t given up 30 points in a game yet this season. The most it has allowed is 29.
Now, weather played a role in last week’s game against Georgia, where the Bulldogs had 21 points and only 35 yards passing. But it also hindered the ‘Cats offense, so it worked both ways.
On the defensive line, Kentucky has senior Calvin Taylor, who has three sacks in the interior of the defense. The run defense isn’t as good as the pass, but they still have guys who can make plays, and Taylor is the top D-lineman.
At linebacker, DeAndre Square leads the front seven with 49 tackles. But where this team excels is in the secondary.
Kentucky ranks 20th in passing defense, giving up just 182 yards through the air a game. Mizzou has struggled at passing at times this year, especially last week against Vanderbilt. Kentucky cornerback Brandin Echols will look to give Mizzou those same problems.
Echols has 30 tackles with seven pass breakups this year. The ‘Cats don’t give up the big plays, and safety Yusuf Corker is there to make the stops when needed. He leads Kentucky with 51 tackles.
Mizzou should be able to run against Kentucky. This should open up quick passes for Kelly Bryant and hopefully the Tigers take advantage of that. Johnathon Johnson could have a huge day for the Tigers. If that’s the case, Mizzou should be able to cover the 10-point spread.