Missouri Football Focus: Kentucky Wildcats

Missouri finally got the monkey, or in this case cat, off their back last season when they took down the Kentucky Wildcats at Faurot Field.

This season, the Tigers will try to repeat the feat in Lexington on the 20th anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center.

As we countdown to kickoff for the 2021 season, this edition of Missouri Football Focus takes a look at Missouri’s Week 2 opponent.

Kentucky Wildcats

Dec 5, 2020; Lexington, Kentucky, USA; Kentucky Wildcats defensive back Davonte Robinson (9) and wide receiver Brett Slusher (25) run onto the field holding an American flag and the Kentucky state flag prior to kickoff at Kroger Field. Mandatory Credit: Arden Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

2020 saw Missouri take down the Wildcats for the first time since 2014, winning 20-10 thanks to great performances from Larry Rountree III, Connor Bazelak and Harrison Mevis.

This year sees the return of two of those top performers, and the Tigers look in good shape to grab a win on the road. That being said, if the past 6 years have taught us anything it’s that a game against Kentucky is never a given.

The Wildcats scored a coveted transfer in former Penn State quarterback Will Levis, adding more depth to an already talented quarterback room.

Naijee Jones of Rutgers is blocked by Theo Johnson of Penn State as quarterback Will Levis runs the ball in the first half during a Big Ten college football match up that saw Penn State defeat Rutgers 23-7 in Piscataway, NJ on December 5, 2020.
Big Ten College Football Penn State At Rutgers In Piscataway Nj On December 5 2020

Levis will be the main threat for Kentucky, provided he starts. Named All-Big Ten as a redshirt freshman, he is the definition of a dual-threat quarterback.

The former Nittany Lion notched 473 rushing yards and 6 rushing touchdowns in his 2 years at Penn State to go along with 644 passing yards and 3 passing touchdowns.

The Wildcats also return 5th year wide receiver Josh Ali, who led the team in receiving yards last season.

Oct 31, 2020; Lexington, Kentucky, USA; Kentucky Wildcats wide receiver Josh Ali (6) runs with the ball in the first half against the Georgia Bulldogs at Kroger Field. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

This is an early season game, so Levis may still be figuring out his favorite targets and his rhythm, but look for Josh Ali to establish himself as a top-notch target.

Levis and Ali will be helped out by Outland Trophy candidate Darian Kinnard. Kinnard was named AP First Team All-SEC last season, and his 6-5, 345 lb frame dominates the offensive line.

A returning Kinnard gives Levis more time in the pocket, and more protection when he goes on the run. Missouri tacklers will have to be on their game, because the Kentucky Wildcat offense looks dangerous.

Defensively however, the Wildcats aren’t as potent. Opponents torched the Cats for 18 passing touchdowns last season, averaging nearly 225 yards per-game through the air.

Secondary leader Jamin Davis has moved on, along with Jamar Watson, leaving Yusuf Corker and J.J. Weaver to pick up the slack.

The Tigers have their win condition spelled out for them in big blue letters in Lexington. Contain Levis and Ali by any means necessary, then let Bazelak and his receiving corps dominate the Wildcat secondary.

The Tigers can’t be complacent however, as we’ve seen time and time again how these Wildcats can be full of surprises.