Repeat after me: the Missouri Tigers are in first place in the SEC East Division.
The Missouri Tigers are in first place in the SEC East Division.
It may have seemed astonishing after Mizzou's lackluster performance against Indiana six weeks ago, and their performance against Georgia three weeks later didn't inspire much confidence either. And let's not be mistaken: the Tigers' victories in conference play have been anything but convincing.
Yet, here we are, on November 1, and Missouri is a few more victories away from going back to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game.
Let's run through the ins and outs of this performance.
Mauk finally shines -- sort of
Put away all of your "Mauktober" puns, Missouri fans. It appears that it was all for naught. October was anything but pleasant for quarterback Maty Mauk, who threw dud after dud after dud on the gridiron. But in the aftermath of Halloween, the Ohio native dished out some treats for the Mizzou fanbase, amassing his best performance of the season. By far.
Mauk went 18-for-33 on pass attempts, tossing 164 yards and two touchdowns -- both coming in the first half, with zero interceptions. The latter was nearly corrected after an abysmal throw towards the end of the game that nearly led to a pick six, but Mauk was bailed out by a drop from the Kentucky defender who had the pigskin in his grasp.
That said, Mauk can obviously do better. A completion percentage of 54.5 percent did enough against Kentucky today. But the second half of the game did no wonders for him and his detractors. There were a few boneheaded plays -- which is what we've come to expect at this point.
For now though, Missouri will take what they can get.
Ray shatters the record
Defensive end Shane Ray is probably going to be making a living off of terrorizing quarterbacks on Sundays very soon. In the present though, Ray was recognized for quite the feat, as he broke Aldon Smith's single-season sack record of 11.5 sacks.
He picked up two sacks on the afternoon, with the second one being the record-breaker. To put this record into perspective, let's put it this way: Michael Sam, Kony Ealy and Sheldon Richardson were three top-tiered defensive linemen in their time in Columbia. And even they couldn't break the record set by Aldon, who has gone on to have quite a good career so far with the San Francisco 49ers.
With three games remaining on the schedule -- at Texas A&M and Tennessee, and a home meeting with Arkansas -- it's fair to say that Shane Ray is going to obliterate the mark.
Kentucky lacks efficiency and discipline
The Wildcats were fighting an uphill battle from the get go in Columbia on Saturday afternoon.
Quarterback Patrick Towles and the Kentucky offense fell short often against the stingy Tigers defense, and the team as a whole lacked in two primary areas: 3rd down conversions and penalties.
The Wildcats were 2-for-15 on 3rd down conversions against Missouri. Conversely, the Tigers went 10-for-20 in that department, which showed what was most likely a game-changing disparity.
Elsewhere, Kentucky couldn't keep themselves contained in all phases, committing nine penalties for a total of 67 yards. Mizzou, meanwhile, only committed five.