FACTS & STATS: Site: Faurot Field (71,004) — Columbia, Missouri.
Television: SEC Network. Home Record: UK 5-1, Missouri 3-2. Away Record: UK
0-2, Missouri 3-0. Neutral Record: UK 0-0, Missouri 0-0. Conference Record: UK
2-3, Missouri 3-1. Series Record: Series is tied, 2-2.
GAME NOTES: Trying to earn bowl eligibility for the first time in four years,
the Kentucky Wildcats will hit the road to take on the Missouri Tigers in an
SEC clash at Faurot Field.
Kentucky is in the midst of its best season since qualifying for the BBVA
Compass Bowl following the 2010 season, as it has gone 5-3 overall and even
collected a couple of conference wins after going 0-8 in the SEC in each of
the past two seasons. The Wildcats have come back down to earth after a hot
start with back-to-back losses to nationally-ranked teams LSU (41-3) and
Mississippi State (45-31).
At 6-2, Missouri has already earned bowl eligibility for the 10th time in 14
seasons under head coach Gary Pinkel. Since suffering a 34-0 home loss to
Georgia on Oct. 11, the Tigers have rebounded nicely with two straight wins
over Florida (42-13) and Vanderbilt (24-14) to improve to 6-2 overall and 3-1
in league action.
The all-time series between the squads is tied at two games apiece, with the
Tigers winning both matchups since joining the SEC Eastern Division in 2012.
The Wildcats’ impressive offense has been a big reason for their turnaround
this season, as they amass 31.6 ppg and 426.5 ypg. The unit was nearly able to
keep up with No. 1 Mississippi State step-for-step last week with 504 yards.
Patrick Towles was outstanding despite the loss, tallying career highs in
passing yards (390), rushing yards (76) and touchdowns (four) while going
without a turnover. He’s been stellar all season long leading the Wildcats,
throwing for 2,077 yards (on 60.1 percent completions), rushing for 204 yards
and accounting for 16 touchdowns while throwing only four interceptions.
Ryan Timmons and Demarco Robinson combined for 200 receiving yards against
MSU. Timmons is the team-leader in receptions (36) and yards (453), with
Robinson contributing 24 receptions and 392 yards.
A solid rushing attack, which picks up just shy of 160 ypg, has five players
with at least 200 yards rushing, led by Jojo Kemp (314 yards, four TDs).
Kentucky’s defense understandably had its hands full with a potent and
balanced MSU squad, allowing 30 first downs and 542 yards. The poor showing
didn’t put too much of a damper on its stellar season, as the unit allows 24.8
ppg and 377.6 ypg and has forced 18 turnovers.
The ball-hawking defense is led by Marcus McWilson and A.J. Stamps with three
interceptions apiece, while Josh Forrest and Ashely Lowery each have two
picks. Forrest also has a team-best 65 tackles, and Alvin Dupree has 45
tackles, 6.0 TFL and 4.0 sacks.
Surprisingly, Missouri is the second-worst in the SEC when it comes to total
offense (331.4 ypg), but it has made the most of its limited yardage by
scoring 29.9 ppg.
Maty Mauk has been largely unreliable under center. There’s been some
positives to speak of, as he’s thrown for 16 touchdowns, but he records just
171.0 passing yards per game with a lackluster completion percentage (.520).
Russell Hansbrough has turned 107 carries into 572 yards and seven touchdowns.
Marcus Murphy (95 carries, 467 yards, TD) also gets plenty of work out of the
backfield and is one of the nation’s best all-purpose threats, adding
impressive kick return (343 yards, two TDs), punt return (236 yards, TD) and
receiving (14 receptions, 119 yards, TD) totals to his outstanding season.
Bud Sasser has twice as many receptions (50) and yards (551) as any of his
teammates and has hauled in six touchdowns. Jimmie Hunt (20 receptions, 264
yards, five TDs) and Darius White (17 receptions, 239 yards, three TDs) have
also been solid.
On defense, the Tigers held Vanderbilt, the SEC’s worst offense, to a mere 240
yards, a continued trend for an impressive unit that has yielded just 20.5 ppg
and 350.9 ypg with 16 takeaways.
Shane Ray ranks third in the FBS in sacks with 10.0 and has added 14.0 TFL,
two forced fumbles and a blocked kick to his resume. Braylon Webb (45 tackles)
has picked off four passes, and Michael Scherer (70 tackles) and Kentrell
Brothers (61 tackles) have racked up the stops.
After a few seasons as a cellar dweller, Kentucky has proven its worth as a
viable SEC squad and it’ll surely give Missouri a run for its money in this
one. Still, in the end the Tigers’ stout defense and homefield advantage will
be too much for the Wildcats to handle.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Missouri 24, Kentucky 20