Missouri vs. Kentucky Betting Odds, Pick for Week 2: Another Offensive Explosion Expected from Wildcats?
Andy Lyons/Getty Images. Pictured: Will Levis.
- Missouri faces Kentucky in an SEC East showdown in Week 2 of the college football season.
- The Wildcats are attempting to continue their offensive success after putting up 419 total yards vs. UL Monroe in Week 1.
- Thomas Schlarp breaks down the game and provides his best bet.
Missouri vs. Kentucky Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
Football may not be the first thing you think of when you hear the words Kentucky and Missouri, but both schools have developed consistent programs fighting to finish in the top half of the SEC East.
And despite the 450 miles separating both schools, these two programs have never been closer, as dating back to 2017, both teams are 16-18 in league play and have finished either tied or within a place of each other in the standings each year.
Depending on where you placed your win total bets this year, both the Tigers and Wildcats had lines set at or near seven wins. Not only could this game decide third place in their division, but it could be the make-or-break outcome on cashing a season-long prop.
Was Kentucky’s Week 1 offensive explosion a sign of what’s more to come, or will Missouri put the blues in Big Blue Nation and beat the Wildcats for a second straight year?
Eli Drinkwitz and his Tigers had a closer game than expected in Week 1 against Central Michigan, as Missouri failed to cover the 14-point spread in a 34-24 victory, but a win is a win.
The Tigers bookended a 5-1 middle portion of their schedule last season with two consecutive losses to begin and end the season by a combined 96 points to finish .500.
In the process, Drinkwitz discovered what he hopes is the program’s QB of the future in Connor Bazelak — the 2020 SEC Co-Freshman of the Year. With Offensive and Defensive TARP of 79% and 69%, Missouri has eyes on finishing third in the SEC East this season.
Missouri’s offense certainly wasn’t the problem in its season opener, as the Tigers opened the season with a 63-yard pass and 12-yard rushing touchdown on successive plays to demonstrate the type of firepower this unit can have when Bazelak and Co. are clicking.
The biggest question presenting Missouri in 2021 was how it would replace Larry Rountree — the heart and soul of the offense — at the running back position. And while sustained success remains to be determined, Tyler Badie quickly assuaged any of those concerns, rushing for 203 yards and a touchdown.
The box score, however, can be a bit misleading, as 69 of those yards came on one carry, as the Tigers were Stuffed on 52.9% of runs and only had a Rushing Success of 41.2%, a couple of percentage points below the national average.
And although the Tigers had 481 yards of total offense, Missouri converted just one of 11 third-down conversions, the worst rate in the FBS. In a game that’s likely to be decided by a single score, the Tigers won’t be so fortunate if they keep sending their punter on the field.
Allowing 457 yards to a MAC team is not how you want to start the season, but it was a bit of a mixed bag in terms of success for the Tigers defense.
The run defense was particularly bad as Lew Nichols rushed for 100 yards before the half as the Chippewas ran for 236 yards on 8.1 yards per carry, before being adjusted for sacks.
But sacks and pass rush are where the Missouri defense shined, as the Tigers recorded a whopping nine sacks, including 3.5 by Rice transfer Blaze Alldredge. Alldredge was everywhere in Week 1, recording 10 tackles and six for loss.
While Kentucky may have its way running the ball on Missouri based off the Tigers’ Defensive Rushing Success of 112 last season and their Week 1 performance, the Wildcats struggled to keep Will Levis clean against Louisiana Monroe, so Missouri could do some real damage if it can come anywhere close to replicating that kind of Havoc in Week 2.
Outside of the first six minutes of play in Week 1, everything went about as smooth as possible for Kentucky in its 45-10 win over Louisiana Monroe.
On offense, the Wildcats moved the ball with ease and chunk plays, as transfer quarterback Will Levis formed an instant chemistry with Wan’Dale Robinson and Josh Ali.
The defense was just as efficient, holding the WarHawks to only 67 yards and three points after their first drive of the game.
Can the Wildcats sustain this type of success in the SEC, or will they revert back to their sluggish offense of years past and finish near the bottom of their division?
What a change nine months can make as the Kentucky offense looked nearly unrecognizable in Week 1 with new offensive coordinator Liam Coen calling plays.
A former college QB and Los Angeles Rams quarterback coach, Coen drastically switched from Eddie Gran’s run-centric scheme to a more pro-style offense, as the Wildcats were almost perfectly balanced against Monroe.
The Wildcats racked up 45 points and 564 yards of offense on 34 runs and 33 passes. The near-even, 50-50 split comes as a big change from Eddie Gran’s offense that ran the ball 64.2% of the time in 2020, the 12th highest rate in the FBS.
Kentucky looked like it hit the lottery with Will Levis’ transfer from Penn State, as after throwing an interception on his very first pass attempt (that his receiver dropped), Levis settled in to pass for 367 yards and four touchdowns, eclipsing the three combined touchdowns he threw for over the course of 14 games in Happy Valley.
Aiding Levis’ debut were Nebraska transfer Wan’Dale Robinson and Josh Ali, both of whom blew by the century mark in receiving yards and had long catches of 58 and 62 yards, respectively. The Wildcats took a major step up in explosiveness, recording six plays of at least 30 yards in length, tied for the most among all FBS teams that have played only one game.
And all of this goes without mentioning running back Chris Rodriguez, one of the best backs in the SEC, who ran for 103 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. Both Rodriguez and backup Kavosiey Smoke were never stopped behind the line of scrimmage on a run.
But while the offensive line did a good job opening up the run, one of the few areas for concern on offense was in pass protection, as the Wildcats were sacked four times by a Monroe line that featured All-Sun Belt selection Ty Shelby.
Other than for the opening drive in which multiple third-down penalties extended Monroe’s drive, before the Warhawks scored a touchdown to take their first lead since 2019, the Kentucky defense looked performed well — at least on the stat sheet.
Again, don’t get it twisted, as Monroe is one of the worst teams in the FBS, but the Wildcats held the Warhawks to 45 rushing yards on 45 attempts for an Opponent Rushing Success of just 26.9%, far below the national average of 40.6%. The Warhawks were Stuffed on 75.7% of rush attempts.
Furthermore, Kentucky recorded six sacks, with five different players chipping in. Monroe QB Rhett Rodriguez was never able to get comfortable, throwing for just 56 yards.
The box score, however, won’t show it, but Monroe receivers did break free several times in the game, they just either completely dropped the ball or Rodriguez air-mailed the pass. Connor Bazelak won’t be so forgiving.
Missouri vs. Kentucky Matchup Analysis
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Missouri Offense vs. Kentucky Defense
Kentucky Offense vs. Missouri Defense
Pace of Play / Other
Missouri vs. Kentucky Betting Pick
Missouri defeated the Wildcats 20-10 in 2020 and stymied their offense to just 145 yards.
All signs point to Kentucky’s offense being one of the most improved units in football in 2021, but it’s tough to tell how much of Week 1 will be translatable to an SEC foe.
Less has changed with the Tigers, as Connor Bazelak now has another year of experience, and the Tigers’ front seven could have its way with the Big Blue Wall.
That said, our projections have Kentucky as a six-point favorite, playing at home. Liam Coen is on the short list for the Broyles Award, and I think Kentucky’s offense wasn’t just flexing on an FCS opponent. It is the real deal.
And with only one week of tape for Missouri to pour over, the Tigers will struggle to slow it down. I like the Wildcats to cover the spread. Play to our projection of -6.
Pick: Kentucky -5
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