TV Schedule: Saturday, September 26, 7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Stadium: Commonwealth Stadium, Lexington, KY
Line: UK (-3)
Everybody who grew up in SEC territory knows that when you hear a person say they’re a Kentucky fan, they mean the basketball team. It’s just an unwritten rule that Kentucky only gets to stay in the football-mad conference because they make the SEC look good during basketball season.
But unfortunately for Kentucky, no amount of losing will let them disband the football team at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. So while Big Blue Nation quietly awaits the start of basketball season, a barely recognized football team muddles its way through the SEC.
Kentucky is fresh off a 5-7 season which, believe it or not, is good for the poor Wildcats. Although they lost all their conference games in the SEC East, they put up quite the good fight against Florida. The team is a perennial national title favorite, but Kentucky forced the game into three overtimes before Florida pulled away with a 36-30 win.
If you thought it couldn’t get any worse for the Wildcats, they picked Mississippi State to be their homecoming game. If you weren’t paying attention to college football last season, quarterback Dak Prescott led the Bulldogs to a shockingly successful 2014 run that earned them a #1 ranking for the first time in the school’s history.
Not as shocking, the Wildcats lost their homecoming game but won the existential battle for worst scheduling (followed closely by the time Arkansas scheduled their season opener at Auburn the season after Auburn lost the national title game to Florida State).
Kentucky has started their 2015 campaign on a good note, going 2-1 in their first three games. They lost the rematch to Florida but were able to pull out wins against Louisiana-Lafayette and South Carolina. The Wildcats survived a late-game comeback bid by Louisiana-Lafayette. Stanley “Boom” Williams finished the game with 135 rushing yards on 10 carries and opened the game with a 75-yard TD run.
The South Carolina game was a similar story when the Gamecocks surged in the second half and tried to overcome their first half deficit. Kentucky’s starting quarterback Patrick Towles was able to offset the defense’s lack of consistency, but the Wildcats can’t rely on him and Williams against a better Missouri team.
The University of Missouri has been quite successful since moving to the SEC in 2012, winning 31 games and bulldozing their way to two SEC Championship games (losses to Auburn and Alabama).
The Tigers ended last season with a win against Minnesota in the Citrus Bowl and have brought that momentum into the 2015 season. They’re 3-0 despite a feisty Arkansas State team attempting to pull off the upset of the season (sorry, Northwestern). After a poor showing against Connecticut last week (a 9-6 victory) the Tigers dropped to #25 in the polls, and they’ll be eager to prove that was a mistake.
The Wildcats’ quick offense and home field advantage will be no match for Missouri’s power defense. Despite being favored in Vegas, expect Kentucky to lose a closer game than it should be behind Towles’ offensive charisma.
Prediction: Kentucky 28, Missouri 34