Thursday night will be the first time in Mark Stoops’ career as a head coach that he does not face a team ranked in the Top 20. That doesn’t mean it will be any easier for his 1-5 Wildcats to walk away with the win on the road. Mississippi State used to be a game that Kentucky fans looked forward to. The Bulldogs always seemed to share the cellar of the SEC, giving the ‘Cats a better than average chance for a win. Since luring Dan Mullen away from Florida, the Bulldogs have not lost to Kentucky. The Wildcats last victory in the series came on Nov. 1st, 2008 in a 14-13 victory.
Many media members around the nation feel that Dan Mullen’s job is on the the line. Since arriving in Starkville, he has lead the Bulldogs to three strait bowl games. However, Mullen has only compiled a 13-21 record in the SEC. If you take out the wins versus Kentucky, Mullen has only won nine SEC games since 2009. Some could compare Mullen’s job to former Kentucky coach Rich Brooks. While Brooks gave the Wildcats respectable results, they never were able to take that next step forward. In the eyes of the people in Starkville, the program will be going in the wrong direction if Mullen’s Bulldogs are upset at home versus Kentucky.
Kentucky has not been the only SEC school suffering with a quarterback controversy. QB Tyler Russell started the year for the Bulldogs, but suffered a concussion and missed three games. Insert backup QB Dak Prescott, and allow him to wow you with his dual threat abilities. Now that Russell is healthy again, the Bulldogs have been using Russell as the “passing” quarterback and Prescott as the “running” quarterback. Any of that ring a cowbell?
Look for LaDarius Perkins to be the heavy hitter running the ball, averaging 5.0 yards per carry this season. Along with Prescott, Perkins will be apart of Mississippi State’s ground attack that last lead them to 17 touchdowns on the season compared to only six scores through the air. Jameon Lewis will be MSU’s biggest receiving threat, compiling 393 yards and three touchdowns on the year. At 5-foot-9, he has the speed to get around defenses and has a proven arm for throwing a TD in case Mullen was to try a trick play.
The Kentucky offensive line will have their hands full with DE Chris Jones, who has already racked up 14 tackles and 1 sack on the year. The 5-star freshman recruit is already making some huge waves in the SEC, and needs to be respected by whoever lines up in front of him. DE Preston Smith has 15 tackles and two sacks on the year, and will also be a worry for Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown.
Mississippi State is 3-3 on the year, but has not recorded an SEC victory. The Wildcats are in the same position, but with a 1-5 overall record. We know the ‘Cats are healthier than they have been in a long time after last week’s bye. While Kentucky’s last game was a 48-7 thumping from No.1 Alabama, the Bulldogs squeaked by Bowling Green (OH) in a 21-20 victory. Many pundits will point and say this is Kentucky’s big shot to win an SEC game. The rest of UK’s schedule would indicate this may be their best chance until Tennessee comes to Lexington for the last game of the year. Any win would be great, but a road win is really something to get pumped about in the SEC.