Neither team will be with its starting quarterback Saturday when Missouri (3-4, 0-4) and Kentucky (1-7, 0-5) do battle not be called the worst team in the SEC. Kentucky lost Max Smith earlier in the season to a season-ending ankle injury, while James Franklin has been banged up for several weeks now. Backups Jalen Whitlow and Corbin Berkstresser get their crack to once again try to lead their respective teams to an SEC win.
Kentucky has struggled mightily through its 1-6 season and has at times not even looked competitive. Although the Cats played Georgia tough last weekend, they need to carry any momentum from last week’s hard fought game against Georgia and it just might get Joker Phillips his second win of the season. Kentucky played sound defense and churned out over 200 yards on the ground against a more talented Georgia defense. Freshman quarterback Whitlow has seen his ups and downs. He’s not a polished passer but he can make some plays on the ground. Kentucky used a two-quarterback system with Morgan Newton and Whitlow last week, and more than likely will play both Saturday. In addition, Kentucky gets freshman Patrick Towles back, who also suffered an ankle injury against Arkansas. Three different quarterbacks could see time against Missouri.
The SEC transition has gone much worse than anyone originally thought for Missouri. The Tigers have struggled on offense, mostly due to injuries. Mizzou is averaging 23 points per game compared to last season’s 32.8 points per game and average slightly over 13 points in SEC play. Offensive production is down across the board and the team has looked unprepared at times under Gary Pinkel. Berkstresser will take the snaps at quarterback, and he’s 1-1 on the season beating Arizona State – Missouri’s best win – but he was thumped against Alabama.
Something has to give between these two winless teams.
Kentucky Wins If: The competitive Wildcats’ team shows up. You never know which Kentucky team will show up – the one that was thrashed by Arkansas and held scoreless by Florida, or the one that went toe to toe with Georgia last week. Joker Phillips is in a difficult position, playing one of the tougher schedules in the SEC, handcuffed by injuries.
Missouri Wins If: Sheldon Richardson controls the line of scrimmage. Alabama and South Carolina both struggled to block him at times, and he’s proved to be a legitimate SEC defensive tackle with 52 tackles, four sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss this season. It will be a huge ordeal for Kentucky to block Richardson consistency. He will have an impact shutting the running game down and getting to the quarterback.
Neither team will make a bowl game, but it’s a crucial game for Joker Phillips, who is really starting to feel the heat in Lexington. Missouri is still vying for their first-ever SEC win.
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