By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today
Editor’s note: This is the eighth of a 12-part series on each of Kentucky 12 opponents this season.
GAME 8: Missouri at Kentucky, Saturday, Oct. 26, TBA
LAST YEAR: Kentucky 15, Missouri 14.
COACH: Barry Odom, fourth season. Record at school: 19-19.
LOOKING BACK: The Tigers have been on a roll and in the past two seasons and finished 8-5 a year ago, losing to Oklahoma State in the Liberty Bowl. The team’s success has been largely because of departed quarterback Drew Lock, who threw for more than 12,000 yards and almost 100 touchdowns in his four-year career with the Tigers. A year ago, Missouri ranked No. 3 in the conference in passing (279.4 yards per game) and scoring (36.6 points per game). Kentucky limited the Tigers to just two touchdowns in a narrow 15-14 victory. The Wildcats have won four straight in the series.
LOOKING AHEAD: The biggest task for Odom and offensive coordinator Derek Dooley is finding a solid replacement for Lock. Odom and Dooley settled on former Clemson signal caller Kelly Bryant, giving the Tigers and experienced signal caller to follow in Lock’s footsteps. Also back is departed senior Emanuel Hall, who was one of Lock’s favorite targets, especially in the downfield passing game. Jalen Knox, who saw extensive time as a freshman last season is back to give the Tigers experience at wideout. The top offensive threat could be running back Larry Rountree, who rushed for 1.216 yards and 11 touchdowns last year. Rountree is a junior. The defense welcomes back six starters, including Jordan Elliott, a defensive tackle, who collected eight tackles for a loss and totaled three sacks last season. Odom is also high on linebacker Cale Garrett. Odom is glad to have Bryant is in the fold. “When Kelly stepped on campus for his official visit, I saw interaction between him and our team in the locker room,” Odom said. “It was a natural fit. He’s a very selfless person, low, low ego. And one of the best competitors I have ever been around. That fit with who we are as a program and as an organization. I also look at the opportunity when you look at the makeup of the guys returning on that side of the ball on stepping in the quarterback position, he’s going to make some mistakes. All quarterbacks do. We need 10 guys around him to play really well.”
CONFERENCE: The Tigers are projected to finish third in the SEC East.
COACH QUOTE: “The idea of the concept of “we” over “me,” we talk about it all of the time in our program. We talk about the culture of not just of the people on our team, but also the people who influence and touch all the people on our team. Our organization is so much bigger than myself. We understand we’ve got an opportunity with this platform to represent somebody and something a lot bigger than ourselves, the state of Missouri, the fans, who I’m so thankful for, the folks that have built Mizzou football into what it is today. It’s our job to take that and continue to move forward along with the winning process.”
Aug. 31 at Wyoming
Sept. 7 West Virginia
Sept. 14 SE Missouri State
Sept. 21 South Carolina
Oct. 5 Troy
Oct. 12 Ole Miss
Oct. 19 at Vanderbilt
Oct. 26 at Kentucky
Nov. 9 at Georgia
Nov. 16 Florida
Nov. 23 Tennessee
Nov. 30 at Arkansas/at Little Rock
• Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.