12:22:03:Football vs. Louisiana Monroe

Kentucky quarterback Will Levis (7) looks for an open receiver during UK’s home opener against Louisiana Monroe on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, at Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

The “Across the (By)Line” series will give Kentucky football fans an in-depth look at their opponent for this week — from the mind of the opposing school’s sports editor. 

This week: The Maneater, Missouri, Kyle Pinnell.

Should Kentucky fans expect another 400-yard passing game for the second week in a row?

Kyle: It just depends. I think that Missouri was really good last week when it came to the pass rush — they had nine sacks last week. I didn't feel like Missouri was that dominant on the defensive end and their run defense wasn't great, and they got burned a few times through the air. 

What Missouri is probably going to try and do, especially under Steve Wilks, is bring pressure against [Will] Levis. They're just going to hope that they can get to him before he releases the ball. I don't know what the state of Kentucky's offensive line is this year, but if they're not as solid as they consistently are, they're going to have their hands full as far as the pass rush goes. 

It depends on how much the Kentucky offensive line allows Missouri to get to Levis. If he has all day to sit in the pocket and throw the ball, I think he can have a pretty decent afternoon.

How is quarterback Connor Bazelak expected to fair in his second season under center?

Kyle: Connor Bazelak is continuing to prove why he's the starting quarterback for Missouri. He was really, really solid once again against Central Michigan. 

Bazelak won't put up the most flashing numbers in the world, but he knows how to read the game. I think that's something Kentucky should be watching for.

Who has the bigger game — Tyler Badie or Chris Rodriguez Jr.?

Kyle: What Tyler Badie has going for him is that he's so accustomed to receiving the ball out of the backfield. That was always a strength, especially as the number two running back before he was getting 25 carries per game, which really should be more in the 18 to 20 range. 

Especially against the Kentucky defense, he could cause some issues in the flats. I think Badie could have another good game and if he’s able to run even half as well as he did against Central Michigan, that'll be dangerous.

I'm also concerned about Rodriguez as well, from a Missouri perspective.

Who’s one or more Missouri defenders that Kentucky fans should keep an eye on?

Kyle: The number one player on defense would be Blaze Alldredge. He had an absolutely incredible game against Central Michigan. He had three and a half sacks and around eight total tackles. He was just phenomenal. 

I think he's definitely pretty aggressive. He fits well into the scheme that Steve Wilks wants to run with this Missouri defense.

Akayleb Evans, who transferred from Tulsa, is someone to look for as well. He had an interception in his first game with the Tigers and a solid overall game where each time he was thrown at, he didn't really allow too many big gains. He made a few big plays and was pretty solid. You didn't have to worry about him, which is exactly what you want out of your cornerback.

A lot of Kentucky fans see the game against Missouri as the most important of the season — do Missouri fans feel the same?

Kyle: This is a game that's going to be very important. This is one of those games that if you win, you can win eight or nine games this season. The goal is to compete in the SEC East for both of these teams, so I think they have pretty similar definitions for success for their seasons.

I think anything over .500 will be exciting and we'll see how tempered that mood gets after this Kentucky game. Who knows? But I think there are a lot of expectations and fans that are still anxious to see what Missouri can do against actual SEC competition.

Stats:

Kentucky:

-Offense — 564 total yards, 355 yards on first down, three turnovers

-Will Levis — 18-26, 367 yards, 4 TD’s, 1 INT

-Josh Ali — 5 rec, 136 yards, 1 TD

-Wan’Dale Robinson — 5 rec, 125 yards, 2 TD

-Chris Rodriguez Jr. — 19 rush, 125 yards (6.6 per carry), 1 TD

-Defense — Weaver, 2 sacks; Paschal, 7 tackle (6 solo), 1 sack, 2 TFL; Square 6 tackle (4 solo), 3.5 TFL, 1 sack

-Defense (2) — Gave up 87 yards (ranked No. 1 in the country)

Missouri:

-Offense — 468 total yards 

-Connor Bazelak — 21-32, 257, 2 TD’s 

-Tyler Badie — 25 rush, 203 yards (69 long), 1 TD — 3 rec, 40 yards (30 long), 1 TD

-D’Ionte Smith — 2 rec, 69 yards (63 long) 

-Defense — Gave up 301 yards passing, 174 yards rushing, 13 TFL