Looking back at Mississippi State football’s decade of dominance over Kentucky

STARKVILLE, MS - OCTOBER 21: Aeris Williams #22 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs carries the ball during the first half of an NCAA football game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Davis Wade Stadium on October 21, 2017 in Starkville, Mississippi. (Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images)
STARKVILLE, MS - OCTOBER 21: Aeris Williams #22 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs carries the ball during the first half of an NCAA football game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Davis Wade Stadium on October 21, 2017 in Starkville, Mississippi. (Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images) /

The Mississippi State football team has controlled the series against Kentucky over the past 10 seasons

As we’ve seen so far in 2018, the Mississippi State football program is clearly on the rise as the Bulldogs feature a talented and experienced roster. The Mississippi State football team is built to win now and should be able to have plenty of success in the coming years. Dan Mullen helped get MSU to this point.

Where Joe Moorhead takes the program next is something that remains to be seen.

One thing that Moorhead should definitely aim to carry over from the Mullen era of Mississippi State football is the dominance over the Kentucky Wildcats. In Mullen’s time at MSU, he only lost to Kentucky once a couple of seasons ago.

Prior to that  2016 game that was rather painful to watch, the last time that State lost to Kentucky was all the way back in 2008.

As you can tell, it had been a few years. Kentucky broke a streak that the Bulldogs had been building. But now, the Mississippi State football team is working on building a new streak against the Wildcats. MSU won 45-7 a season ago in Starkville and is aiming to continue beating Kentucky on a regular basis.

MSU has gone 8-2 against Kentucky in the last 10 seasons. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and look back at Mississippi State’s decade of dominance over Kentucky.

The wins over the Wildcats

Mississippi State has done a pretty good job of beating down on Kentucky over the last 10 college football seasons. Yes, this decade started out with a loss to the Wildcats as MSU dropped a game at home by one point to UK, but things turned around rather quickly for Mississippi State.

  • 10/31/2009: Dan Mullen’s first year in Starkville was a fairly successful one, all things considered. On Halloween night in 2009, Mullen got his first of eight wins over Kentucky by a score of 31-24. Anthony Dixon ran the ball 33 times for 252 yards and two touchdowns to lead MSU to victory.
  • 10/30/2010: No. 23 ranked Mississippi State entered into this game at 6-2 and was able to claim a win despite a less than stellar offensive performance. Kentucky turned the ball over four times as MSU clinched its seventh win of the season by a score of 24-17.
  • 10/29/2011: The Mississippi State Bulldogs were able to get off to a quick start against Kentucky in this game. MSU scored 14 points in the 1st quarter and were able to hold on to that lead by using both Tyler Russell and Chris Relf. MSU won 28-16.
  • 10/6/2012: This game featured another great 1st quarter for State as the Bulldogs claimed a 14-0 lead and essentially traded scored with the Wildcats for the rest of the game. Russell threw for 269 yards and a couple of touchdowns while Ladarius Perkins had over 100 yards on the ground and 50 yards receiving. MSU won the game 27-14.
  • 10/24/2013: As someone who remembers this game personally, it was definitely too close for comfort. Kentucky came in to Davis Wade Stadium on a Thursday night and played the Bulldogs tougher than one would have liked. MSU earned the 28-22 win over Kentucky, but it wasn’t exactly the best to watch.
  • 10/25/2014: In 2014, the undefeated No. 1 Mississippi State Bulldogs were challenged again by the Kentucky Wildcats. This time, the game was a back and forth shootout as Dak Prescott and Josh Robinson dueled Patrick Towles and the Kentucky offense. MSU came out on top, but it needed stellar performances from Dak and Robinson while also getting a touchdown returned on an onside kick by Christian “Turtle” Holmes. MSU walked out of Lexington with a 45-31 win.
  • 10/24/2015: While the two meetings between these teams prior to this one were relatively close, this one was anything but. Dak threw for 348 yards and 3 touchdowns while completing over 71 percent of his passes. He also ran for 117 yards and 3 touchdowns on just 13 carries. The Bulldogs won at home 42-16.
  • 10/21/2017: After a rather unexpected loss to Kentucky in 2016, the Bulldogs bounced back in this series by dominating the Wildcats on both sides of the ball. Mississippi State accumulated 441 yards of offense while holding Kentucky to just 260 yards of offense. Nick Fitzgerald had 270 total yards of offense and three total touchdowns. State won 45-7.

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The losses to the Wildcats

In fairness to Kentucky, there are a couple of games that the Wildcats have won in the last 10 meetings between these two teams. Those two losses to Kentucky should be discussed as well to give full context to how lopsided the series has been in the last decade.

  • 11/1/2008: Mississippi State took a lead in the 1st quarter and seemed capable of holding on to it for most of the game. Tyson Lee threw the first of two touchdowns to put MSU ahead 7-0. Kentucky, however, was able to fight back in the 3rd quarter and scored a couple of touchdowns of their own. Lee threw another touchdown in the 4th quarter, but a missed extra point sealed up a 14-13 win for Kentucky.
  • 10/22/2016: In MSU’s worst year since 2009, the Bulldogs played an unremarkable game against Kentucky. Like 2014, this game was a rather high scoring affair, but it was weird and featured an unfortunate ending for Mississippi State. MSU wound up losing 40-38.

What is the average margin of victory for each of these teams?

The Mississippi State football team clearly has more wins to work with here, but that means that we have to do more math and adding and dividing.

In the Bulldogs’ eight wins over Kentucky since 2008, MSU has won those games by an average of 15.375 points. Kentucky’s two wins over Mississippi State in the last 10 meetings have come by an average of 1.5 points. In the previous 10 meetings between these two teams, MSU has won eight games by 123 points. Kentucky has won two games by just 3 points.

That’s a rather large difference.

In the last five meetings, the gap between the two teams has been more pronounced. Mississippi State has four wins over the Wildcats since 2013. Those four victories have been by an average of 21 points.

In 2013, MSU only won by six points. In 2014, the Bulldogs won by 14. They followed that up with a 26 point win over Kentucky in 2015, lost by two points in 2016, and then won by 38 in 2017.

Lately, when the Bulldogs have beaten Kentucky, they’ve done so in rather impressive fashion. When Kentucky beats MSU, it’s by a rather close margin. But, at the end of the day, a win is a win. It doesn’t really matter how you got there.