Four Downs: What's Making Kentucky An Underdog at Missouri?

When Kentucky takes the field on Saturday at Missouri, it may surprise some that the Wildcats will be a fairly substantial underdog.

Despite the fact that Kentucky has won four of its last five games and that Missouri has lost four of its last five, the Cats opened as a 4.5 underdog to the Tigers. That figure has since moved to 5.5 in Las Vegas as of Wednesday afternoon.

So what gives?

In this edition of All Wildcats' "Four Downs," we take a look at four factors that may be influencing the way the experts are viewing this matchup.

1. UK Is Historically A Really Poor Road Team

Playing away from home has always been a difficult challenge for the Kentucky program, so it comes as little surprise that the same struggles have nagged Mark Stoops during his time as head coach. The Cats enter Saturday's game 1-14 on the road under Stoops. The lone win came last year at South Carolina and ultimately led to Steve Spurrier's retirement. Even the Ol' Ball Coach knows when you start losing home games to UK, it's probably a sign. In their two road games earlier this season, the Cats lost by a combined score of 79-13 to Florida and Alabama. The program has only 10 road wins over the last 10 seasons.

2. Cats Have Been No-Show in Show-Me State

Since Missouri joined the SEC in 2012, UK has yet to play well at the Tigers' Memorial Stadium. And that's putting it kindly. The Cats started well in the 2012 game before becoming completely unraveled in a 33-10 loss. Three turnovers led to 21 points for the Tigers. A return trip in 2014 saw the Cats shoot themselves in their proverbial feet again in a 20-10 defeat. Lethargic play, turnovers, untimely penalties and questionable coaching decisions have all reared their ugly heads whenever UK plays at Mizzou, but here's the king of all losing stats: 3-for-28 on third down in the two losses.

3. Early Kickoff

While the Noon ET kickoff may prevent Mizzou from having its best home-field advantage, it can be a challenge for a road team. Kentucky hasn't played an early game this season. The earliest kickoff has been 3:30 ET to this date, so Stoops has been preaching all week long about players making sure they have their bodies and minds ready to go on Saturday. Sometimes that's easier said than done. You don't have the creature comforts of home. You're sleeping in a strange bed. There's a time change. It's not an ideal situation.

4. Statistical Indicators

Although Mizzou limps into this game coming off a 51-45 home loss to Middle Tennessee State, the Tigers still boast the No. 5 scoring offense (34.9 ppg) in the SEC while the Cats will send the league's worst scoring defense (32.3 ppg) into the contest. Kentucky has developed the reputation as a good running team, but Mizzou is slightly better at 200.4 yards per game. The Tigers aren't one-dimensional, either, leading the league at 304.6 yards per game. A big part of that is getting the ball out quickly. Missouri's quarterbacks have been sacked only five times (the lowest figure in the SEC) through seven games, possibly negating one of the things that the UK defense has done well. But the biggest difference between these teams to date -- and a stat that belies the two teams' records -- is that the Tigers are even in turnover margin this season while the Cats are dead last in the SEC at minus-9.

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