How Kentucky and Missouri match up for Saturday's game at Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Mo.:
Patrick Towles is coming off the best game of his brief tenure as Kentucky starting quarterback after throwing for 390 yards and showing toughness as a runner (net 76 yards) last week against No. 1 Mississippi State. It will be interesting to see if the redshirt sophomore from Fort Thomas Highlands can play at that level two weeks in a row. Missouri's Maty Mauk threw five touchdown passes against Kentucky last season. With less talented receivers playing around him in 2014, Mauk is completing only 52 percent of his passes.
In its last two games, Kentucky has not had a running back run for 30 yards in a contest. True freshman Stanley "Boom" Williams is the last UK running back to gain 100 yards in a game with 104 vs. Louisiana-Monroe. His expected return after sitting out the Mississippi State game due to a concussion should be a plus. Russell Hansbrough (572 yards rushing, seven TDs) is Mizzou's featured back, and kick return star Marcus Murphy (467 yards, one rushing TD) gives the Tigers a solid change of pace.
Kentucky sophomore Ryan Timmons had his first career 100-yards-plus receiving game (114 on five catches) against Mississippi State. UK seniors Demarco Robinson (67 yards) and Javess Blue (58 yards) each caught long TD passes last week. Missouri torched UK last season with a core of long, athletic wideouts. Graduation and unexpected attrition (Dorial Green-Beckham) have reduced the Tigers' length and talent level. Senior Bud Sasser (40 catches, six TDs) caught two touchdowns last week against Vanderbilt and is having a stellar year. Jimmie Hunt, a 6-foot senior, has 20 catches and 5 TDs.
Kentucky senior Ronnie Shields caught a pass for 11 yards against Mississippi State. It was the first reception against an FBS opponent for a UK tight end in 2014. Missouri sophomore Sean Culkin has eight catches for 89 yards and a touchdown; he made a clutch, fourth-down reception at South Carolina that extended what became Mizzou's game-winning TD drive.
Mark Stoops singled out tackles Darrian Miller, a senior from Bryan Station, and Jordan Swindle, a junior from Florida, for quality play against Mississippi State. Reshuffled due to injuries and ineffectiveness, the Missouri offensive line has struggled in 2014. Center Evan Boehm, a junior, has started all 34 college games in which he's played. Senior left tackle Mitch Morse flipped sides this season after starting at right tackle in 2013.
UK standout end Alvin "Bud" Dupree played his best game of the season last week, with 10 tackles and a sack against Mississippi State. The senior needs seven more sacks to become the Kentucky career leader. Defensive tackle Melvin Lewis, who had seven tackles and forced a fumble vs. State, also drew the praise of Mark Stoops. Missouri's defensive ends are disrupters. Junior Shane Ray leads the SEC in sacks (10), while senior Markus Golden has four. Matt Hoch, a senior tackle, had six tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks against Vanderbilt.
Kentucky middle linebacker Josh Forrest seems to have calls from his coaches that he play with greater physicality over the past two weeks. With 65 stops on the season, the Paducah Tilghman product is tied for sixth in the SEC. Missouri sophomore middle linebacker Michael Scherer is third in the SEC with 70 tackles. Weak-side linebacker Kentrell Brothers has 61 stops. The junior intercepted three passes in 2013, but has none in 2014.
Kentucky junior cornerback Cody Quinn had six tackles last week; nickel back Blake McClain had four stops and broke up two passes. Missouri senior strong safety Braylon Webb has four interceptions and is tied for third on the team with 45 tackles. Sophomore cornerback Aarion Penton has two picks and five pass breakups.
Kentucky punter Landon Foster was stout last week, averaging 47.8 yards on six kicks and pinning Mississippi State inside its 20 three times. UK surrendered a fluky kickoff return touchdown last week on an on-side kick. Missouri return man Marcus Murphy is a nuclear-grade weapon. He returned both a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns against Florida and leads the SEC in kickoff returning (34.3 yards a game). For his career, he has seven return TDs (four punt, three kickoff). Place-kicker Andrew Baggett is 7-for-11 on field goals, but is only 2-for-5 outside 40 yards.
Kentucky 27, Missouri 23