No, it's not like anyone who pays attention to the sport thought Mizzou was really worthy of a Top 25 ranking; but, nonetheless, the Tigers were ranked entering their game against Kentucky. As a result, the Wildcats notched their first win over a Top 25 team in 18 tries (five years) when it beat Missouri, 21-13, on Saturday, and the Wildcats, rightfully, were happy.
"It was a great win," head coach Mark Stoops said afterwards. "Every win is so important to us. We're scratching and clawing for every victory." Kentucky owns a 2-1 conference record for the first time since 2007, and ended a three-game losing streak against Missouri, which began when the Tigers joined the SEC.
Of course, with so much of the season left to play out, and with the team being in legitimate contention to win its division, mentioning UK's proximity to bowl eligibility might be an insult. But, at season's dawn, a bowl berth is what most assumed to be UK's ceiling, and even that wasn't a given. So it's worth mentioning that the ‘Cats are now just three wins away from bowl eligibility, the first time since 2010 the feat would be accomplished. But for now, the Wildcats likely have their eyes set on slightly bigger sights: UK played co-division leader, Florida, tight a week ago, and with two division wins under its belt, is but a couple of wins and a couple of Florida losses away from really making a run to Atlanta.
About Saturday night: Quarterback Patrick Towles hadn't really done much prior to the game, but decided to change all that against Mizzou. The junior went 22-of-27 passing with 249 yards and two touchdowns, and for good measure, ran another score in from 14 yards out. I thought the game's outcome would be predicated on the ground game, but even though UK outran Mizzou slightly (117-111), it was Towles and his arm that served as the difference makers (though credit Kentucky's Jojo Kemp for some critical runs). The ‘Cats had a whole bunch of penalties (eight for 91 yards) but were able to make big -- and timely -- plays against a Mizzou defense ranked among the nation's best entering the game.
Missouri's road-game win streak of 11 is over now, but there is good news: the season's not over yet. Missouri last year was the team that just wouldn't die, and surely knows the meaning of perseverance. The Tigers still have five divisional games left, and also have what is arguably the best draw of SEC West opponents of anyone in the East (Mississippi State and Arkansas). They can still do this! The division's been a toss-up for years, and remains so even now. And though still pretty dicey on offense, the defense and Gary Pinkel will keep the Tigers in games. No one should be shocked to see the Tigers rep the East in Atlanta.