Mizzou football: 3 ways Tigers can snap 5-year losing streak against Kentucky
The Missouri Tigers had their momentum derailed a bit after a huge win over LSU 2 Saturdays ago. That’s because this past weekend’s game against Vanderbilt was postponed until December.
Now, this weekend, they’re playing another opponent that they weren’t supposed to play, as they host the Kentucky Wildcats. This is perhaps the last team Mizzou fans want to see, as the Wildcats have taken down the Tigers for 5 years in a row. That includes some truly miserable losses that I won’t rehash here.
So, how can Mizzou snap that streak and pick up the second win of the Eli Drinkwitz era? Let’s break down 3 things Mizzou must do to win on Saturday:
Keep Kentucky’s offense 1-dimensional
Just like last year, Kentucky has the No. 1 rushing offense in the SEC, averaging 206 yards per game. A lot of that has to do with the stable of talented running backs — AJ Rose, Kavosiey Smoke and Chris Rodriguez. QB Terry Wilson is also a great runner.
But it also has a lot to do with the fact that the Wildcats don’t have any big-time playmakers at wide receiver. Kentucky has the league’s worst passing offense, averaging only 142.5 yards per game.
Mizzou has a solid run defense, allowing only 130 yards per contest, so the Tigers are equipped to go toe-to-toe with the Wildcats’ running backs. LBs Nick Bolton and Devin Nicholson are tackling machines. This plays into their strengths.
All the Mizzou secondary has to do is keep Kentucky’s receivers from making a couple of big plays to gain confidence and it could be a long day for the Wildcats’ offense.
Let Connor Bazelak take some downfield shots
Bazelak is the hot new thing in the SEC after his 400-yard, 4-touchdown performance against LSU. He displayed his natural talent and impressive arm strength.
Kentucky’s defense has played much better than LSU’s this year, though, so this will be a much tougher test. Still, Bazelak should get a chance to show off his deep ball.
The Tigers have 14 passes of 20-plus yards in 3 games this season. Meanwhile, Kentucky has only allowed 6 passes of 20-plus yards in 4 games. You’re not going to beat Kentucky by nickel-and-diming the defense. You have to hit some home runs.
I trust Drinkwitz will do just that with his play-calling Saturday. He’s shown he can be creative with his calls so far this year. Just look at the flea-flicker from the LSU game. That might not work against Kentucky, but I believe Drinkwitz will have some more wrinkles to the offense installed by then.
This is where the extra week off will help the Tigers.
Continue red-hot red-zone play
The Tigers have been the best team in the SEC in terms of red-zone efficiency. They’ve gotten points on all 7 of their red-zone drives (4 touchdowns and 3 field goals). Meanwhile, Kentucky has the SEC’s best red-zone defense, allowing scores on only 9-of-15 trips inside its 20-yard line.
Of course, all 9 of those scores were touchdowns, so the Wildcats are far from perfect when it comes to stopping teams in the red zone. Yes, they have a tough defense, but there are going to be some scoring opportunities.
The Tigers need to make sure they take advantage of those opportunities, especially in the second half. What they can’t afford is another second half against Kentucky where they don’t manage a single first down.
(Oops, sorry, I said I wasn’t going to mention any of those painful losses from the past, didn’t I?)
Can the Tigers get the job done? Tune in to the SEC Network at 4 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday to find out!