Mississippi State vs. Kentucky Game Preview


Oct 24, 2013; Starkville, MS, USA; Kentucky Wildcats running back Jojo Kemp (3) advances the ball during the game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Davis Wade Stadium. Mississippi State Bulldogs win the game against Kentucky Wildcats 28-22. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

#1 Mississippi State takes its show on the road to Lexington Kentucky to play the 5-2 Wildcats. MSU is a two touchdown favorite in this game – their first away from home since LSU over a month ago.

Kentucky nearly pulled off an upset in Starkville last year – we’ve re-lived Kendrick Market’s game-saving tackle a few times.  But alas, the Bulldogs won the game that cold Thursday night and the Wildcats fell to a 2-10 opening year under Mark Stoops with a 0-8 SEC record.

Times have changed, however, and Kentucky is a triple overtime loss away from already being bowl eligible. As it stands they are 5-2 with SEC wins over Vanderbilt and South Carolina. After being taken behind the woodshed by LSU, 41-3, they are looking to bounce back against #1 MSU on CBS at 2:30 (CST).

Stats comparison

MSU rushing offense: 264 YPG (13th) vs. UK rushing defense: 173 (78th)

MSU passing offense: 265 YPG (41st) vs. UK passing defense: 181 YPG (15th)

UK rushing offense: 168 YPG (61st) vs. MSU rushing defense: 121 YPG (24th)

UK passing offense: 247 YPG (53rd) vs. MSU passing defense: 308 YPG (124th)

The only thing that stands out to me as a decent mis-match is Kentucky’s running game against MSU’s front seven. The Wildcats like to use the “wildcat”, ironically, and have had a lot of success with it. I don’t anticipate it working too well against State’s defense. Patrick Towles will have to throw the ball for them to be successful, but he is very capable of that (1,687 yards, 10 TD this year).


As good as MSU’s red zone defense has been (2nd in the country), the offense hasn’t been nearly as productive. So far they are scoring on just 80% of drives into the redzone, which is 89th in the country. Many of the touchdowns have been big plays from outside the redzone as the Bulldogs have failed six times. Any field goal attempts need to be converted and State needs to figure out how to ensure points in the red area.

Also the defense needs to keep up the good work. Kentucky hasn’t been much better than MSU offensively only hitting on 82% of their red zone attempts.


For Mississippi State, the return of Jameon Lewis will be one to keep an eye on. Gabe Myles did a tremendous job the last two games, but Tubby will be back and hopefully at 100%.

Kentucky has a number of running backs they use – Jojo Kemp is the name you’ve heard but Braylon Heard is averaging 7 YPC on 40 attempts this year. They have a number of good receivers – five guys have caught more than 10 passes.

As per the usual, UK has a linebacker with a million tackles – that guy is Josh Forrest. Look out for big Alvin Dupree who has three sacks, an INT and a fumble recovery for a touchdown this year.


This will be the first time in history MSU has played a game as the #1 team in the nation.  The game is also on CBS, and SEC Nation will be on campus. How will State handle it? They’ve been tested already having all the media attention the week of the A&M game plus College Gameday and all that hooplah for the Auburn game. Hopefully a trip on the road will give the team an us against them mentality and they can play well despite the pressure that exists for a heavy favorite with so many hopes and dreams within reach for this season.

State is the better team in this game. Not only has Dan Mullen never lost to Kentucky, but this year’s Bulldog team is his best yet…by a good margin. What’s more, Mullen has won in Lexington three times already (scheduling quirk) so this is charted territory. While Mark Stoops is doing a fine job rebuilding Kentucky’s football program, he’s has no where near the experience and depth level MSU has.

Look for a pretty closely contested game throughout the first half, then for MSU to pull away late in the 3rd and into the 4th quarter. On paper, that is what should happen. As long as the Bulldogs play with the fire they have before, and aren’t still groggy from the celebration that has taken place the last two weeks, they should be able to secure a nice road SEC win.