Kroger Field is going to be rocking on Saturday night.
The Kentucky Wildcats’ offense came out firing on all cylinders in their 45-10 demolition of ULM to open the 2021 season.
Up next, the Cats will take on their first SEC East foe, the Missouri Tigers, in a game that’s sure to have Kroger Field rocking.
Saturday at 7:30 pm ET will be 1-0 Kentucky vs. 1-0 Missouri under lights in front of a ruckus crowd. The game can be seen on the SEC Network.
The Tigers also picked up a victory in their first game over the weekend by defeating Central Michigan 34-24. Despite struggling a bit against CMU, the Tigers finished the game on a 27-10 run and forced two turnovers while not committing one.
Still, the Chippewas came into the season projected 90th in S&P and should not have been within one score in the fourth quarter vs. a good SEC team. Despite the struggles, Vegas has this one closer than you may think. Originally, the line came out at Kentucky -3 but was quickly bet up to -5.
Regardless, if Will Levis and this UK offense can move the ball similarly to how they did against ULM, they should cruise to another victory.
Levis throwing for nearly 400 yards in his debut in blue and white still seems like somewhat of an impossibility after the offense we saw in recent years that struggled with any version of a forward pass. But I assure you, it happened, and I wouldn’t expect it to slow down this week against Missouri.
Compiling 400 yards against an SEC opponent may be a stretch, but the Levis-to-Wan’Dale Robinson connection looked much too effortless to contain after one week. Robinson finished the game with 125 yards and two scores on five grabs, all of which came in the first half.
And Josh Ali is finally not the top option in the passing game, which allowed him to have a career day against the Warhawks with 136 yards and a score on five catches. Ali never looked capable of being the top option in a passing game capable of moving the ball on SEC defenses, but he could be a really nice No. 2 option as Robinson becomes the primary focus of opposing defenses.
Doubling down on the good news, Missouri gave up over 300 yards through the air and nearly 500 yards of total offense in their win against the Chippewas.
From a defensive perspective, Brad White will be game-planning for Missouri’s sophomore quarterback, Connor Bazelak. The 6-foot-3 Bazelak went 21/32 for 257 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday while hitting nine different receivers. The Dayton (OH) native has some experience under his belt after hurling the ball for almost 2,500 yards a year ago.
Senior wideout Keke Chism was Missouri’s leading receiver last season, as the 6-foot-5, 214-pound Texan caught 35 balls for 458 yards and one score. He grabbed four passes for 47 yards in Week 1.
Senior running back Tyler Badie had himself a day in the Tigers’ opening game. Badie rushed the ball 25 times for 203 yards and a touchdown while grabbing three passes for 40 yards and one score. We’ll see how he follows that performance up against a Kentucky defense that was utterly dominant all four quarters against ULM.
Defensively, the Tiger to watch for is Rice transfer Blaze Alldredge. In his first game at Missouri, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound linebacker had 10 total tackles, six tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. Keeping him off Will Levis will be key to ensuring the passing game keeps operating at a high level.
As a team, Missouri had nine sacks and 14 tackles for loss against the Chippewas, who still won the total yards battle 475-468. So if the Tigers weren’t making a play in the backfield, they were allowing the kind of big plays Kentucky thrived with in Week 1.
Saying this, Kentucky’s offensive line was a bit shaky at times vs. the undermanned Warhawks, so they’ll need to be sharper to keep Missouri from wreaking havoc in the backfield.
It can’t be said enough that the atmosphere inside Kroger Field will be epic on Saturday night. A Sea of Blue will be on-site covering the game, so if you aren’t there yourself, make sure you’re following along.
This is a big one. Kentucky needs to win these games they are supposed to in preparation for future showdowns with Florida and Georgia.
Missouri Tigers (1-0) at Kentucky Wildcats (1-0)
Game Time: 7:30 pm ET
Date: September 11th, 2021
Location: Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky
TV Channel: SEC Network
Announcers: Taylor Zarzour, Matt Stinchcomb and Alyssa Lang
Replay: WatchESPN and SEC Network (check local listings).
Radio: Tom Leach and Jeff Piecoro will have the UK radio network call on 6:30 AM, 98.1 FM in Lexington, and on the UK Sports Network.
Satellite Radio: Channel 81 -on Sirius; Channel 81 on XM
Weather: 75 °F, humidity at 68 %, winds at 8.26 mph, and a 0% chance of rain, per Covers.com.
Odds: Kentucky opened as a 3-point favorite, and the line has since grown to 5. ESPN’s matchup predictor gives the Cats a 69.1% chance at victory.
Score Projections: numberFire projects a 32-21 victory for Kentucky. TeamRankings has the Wildcats winning 30-25.