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November 8, 2013

No. 9 Mizzou visits Commonwealth Stadium Saturday

KENTUCKY (2-6, 0-4 SEC)
Coach: Mark Stoops
Record: 2-6 in first season at UK and overall
Last game:Kentucky 48, Alabama State 14
Next game: at Vanderbilt, Nov. 16
Roster | Depth chart
No. 9 MISSOURI (8-1, 4-1 SEC)
Coach: Gary Pinkel
Record: 98-62 in 13th season at Missouri; 171-99-1 in 23rd season overall
Last game: Missouri 31, Tennessee 3
Next game: at Ole Miss, Nov. 23
Roster | Depth chart
Game/Series Information
Game Information
Site: Commonwealth Stadium, Lexington, Ky. (67,942)
TV: ESPNU (Clay Matvick play-by-play, Matt Stinchcomb analysis, Dawn Davenport sideline)
Radio: UK IMG Sports Network (Tom Leach play-by-play, Jeff Piecoro analysis; Dick Gabriel sideline); Sirius 119/XM 201
Internet: Audio | Video
Favorite: Missouri by 14

Series Information:
Series record: Kentucky leads 2-1
At Lexington: Kentucky leads 1-0
Coaches' records: Stoops 0-0 vs. Missouri; Pinkel 1-0 vs. UK

Last meeting
Missouri 33, Kentucky 10 (Oct. 27, 2012, in Columbia, Mo.)
Three Wildcat fumbles led to three Tiger touchdowns, and Mizzou broke open a competitive game with a 16-0 second half in winning the first matchup between the two programs as SEC opponents. Tigers quarterback James Franklin, coming off a knee injury, passed for only 16 yards in a reserve role, but the Tigers won handily. due in large part to a defensive effort that limited Kentucky to 179 yards of total offense.

Keys to the Game
1. Upset special: Kentucky's opportunities for a signature win in Mark Stoops' opening season are dwindling, but the Top 10 Tigers provide perhaps the Wildcats' best shot. On paper, Mizzou is superior. But the talent gap isn't as significant as it was between Kentucky and Louisville, Florida, South Carolina and Alabama, and UK was competitive at times in those games. A win Saturday would go a long way toward putting Stoops' rebuilding process ahead of the curve and no doubt would impress any committed recruit looking for signs of life in the program.

2. Rush, rush: The Cats' primary offensive concern is contending with Missouri's pass rush. Though the Tigers rank last in the SEC in pass defense, allowing 279.3 yards per game through the air, they lead the league in interceptions with 17. That's largely because the Tigers put so much pressure on quarterbacks. Mizzou has an SEC-best 27 sacks on the season. Senior defensive end Michael Sam might be the conference's most disruptive pass rusher. He leads the Tigers and the SEC with 10 sacks this season, three more than anyone else in the league. And Sam doesn't just attack quarterbacks. He has 16 tackles for loss in all to lead the SEC.

3. Receiver blues: There's a case to be made that Missouri's wide receiver corps is the best in the SEC, with three players -- L'Damian Washington, Marcus Lucas and Dorial Green-Beckham -- among the league's top 15 in receiving yards per game. It's also one of the biggest groups of wideouts in the conference. Kentucky, meanwhile, has a particularly thin receiver group, with Alex Montgomery out for the season with a torn ACL and Ryan Timmons unlikely to play Saturday with an ankle sprain.

Staff Predictions
T.J. Walker, Staff Writer: Missouri 35, Kentucky 32 If Kentucky was 100 percent healthy maybe this so would be an upset pick. Whether they should be or not, the Cats aren't scared of Missouri. But since UK is short at wide receiver, and the Cats are going to have to throw against Mizzou, Kentucky comes up just short against the Tigers.

Aaron Smith, staff writer: Missouri 34, Kentucky 14 Jalen Whitlow has targeted Ryan Timmons more times than anybody else on the team. Without his favorite wide receiver, the offense won't put up enough points to keep up with a talented two-way Tiger team.

Justin Rowland, Football Recruiting Analyst: Missouri 28, Kentucky 20 Kentucky should run plenty of screens to try to neutralize the Tigers' formidable pass rush. And anytime you're facing a young quarterback in a hostile environment there's hope. But Missouri has been playing on another level this year and their receivers are too much for UK's defensive backs.

Brett Dawson, Publisher: Missouri 35, Kentucky 20 Missouri's talent isn't overwhelmingly superior to Kentucky's, but it's better. And the Tigers have the right personnel to give Kentucky problems, with a strong defensive front and potent wide receivers. Whether it's James Franklin or Maty Mauk at quarterback, it's hard to see Mizzou not scoring enough to come out of Commonwealth Stadium with a win.

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