Yesterday during his talking, but NOT discussing injuries, with the media portion of his day, Dan Mullen said that he and his players treat Kentucky, who is Mississippi State's permanent East opponent, as "a little bit" of a rivalry game. While that's probably a stretch because KENTUCKY FOOTBALL, I hope both teams treat it as such tonight, as it is a terrible night on the teevee (FALL DOWN A WELL AND STAY THERE, NBC, FOR THIS PARKS AND REC HIATUS BS).
But, whether or not Mississippi State/Kentucky is a rivalry (lol no), it's important we examine the forgettable, uninspiring, and generally uncompetitive nature of this game while Mullen has been at Mississippi State. First, and most importantly, because that's a good place to start, the results over the last four years:
2009 MSU 31, Kentucky 24
2010 MSU 24, Kentucky 17
2011 MSU 28, Kentucky 16
2012 MSU 27, Kentucky 14
While those scores indicate competitive struggles took place, do not be fooled, during these four games, Kentucky held a TOTAL of three leads (all in 2009) and tied the game a total of three times. In fact, the last time this game was tied came in the third quarter of the 2010 game.
However, fairly competitive games were played in 2009 and 2010, but in those games, Kentucky turned it over a combined seven times (three in '09 and four in '10) to Mississippi State's three times. And in the 2010 game, Kentucky threw two interceptions at the Mississippi State goal line, the last of which occurred with 1:30 to play.
Amazingly, Mike Hartline's 2010 effort of 23 for 42, 258 yards, 2 TDs, 3 INTs was the high-water mark for Kentucky quarterbacks in this period. Combined, this is what Kentucky quarterbacks produced:
68-126 (53.9%), 177.5 yards/game, 3 TDs, 4 INTs
Surprisingly, Morgan Newton wasn't totally responsible for those numbers. He played in two games and showcased a 14 of 23, 134 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT performance.
But let's not cast all the blame on Kentucky's inept passing attack. No, that blame needs to be shared by the entire offense, which produced these total yard results:
HOW WERE THESE GAMES EVEN REMOTELY CLOSE?
Oh, right, Mississippi State quarterbacks. Their numbers from 2009 to 2012:
55-96 (57.2%), 197.2 yards/game, 6 TDs, 3 INTs
Not awful, but not gonna blow anyone out, even Kentucky, with those numbers. And throw in that, again, AMAZINGLY, Kentucky is +1 in turnover margin, and it's difficult for Mississippi State to achieve wins with a difference of two or three scores.
What separates these teams, other than State's non-screw up advantage at quarterback, is the ability to run when playing with not good quarterback performances. State has averaged 213.5 rushing yards a game (though only 146 in the last two games), while Kentucky comes in at 120, failing to crack 100 in two of the four games.
So, after reviewing those numbers and temporarily flatlining while doing so, what can you expect tonight? MORE OF THE SAME.
State will roar out to 10-point lead, spend 20 minutes farting in every direction, perhaps even giving up a field goal or touchdown, then slam the door shut with a crushing pair of touchdowns to cruise home with a 24-ish to 6-ish win. But, the good news is the game will provide acres of space to explore for Twitter jokes. Also, maybe a brief spell of blindness.
Watch at your own risk and because baseball is just the worst.