GAMEDAY: UK vs. Mississippi State

This edition of GAMEDAY brings you everything you need to know about tonight's Kentucky versus Mississippi State matchup in Starkville.

Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Davis Wade Stadium (55,082) Starkville, Miss.

Play-by-Play: Rece Davis
Analysts: Jesse Palmer and David Pollack
Sideline: Samantha Ponder


Record: 1-5, 0-3 Southeastern Conference
Ranking: Not ranked
Last game: L, 48-7 vs. No. 1 Alabama (H)
Coach: Mark Stoops (Iowa, 1989)
Record: 1-5 (First season)
at UK: 1-5 (First season)
vs. MSU: 0-0

Record: 3-3, 0-2 Southeastern Conference
Ranking: Not ranked
Last game: W, 21-20 vs. Bowling Green (H)
Coach: Dan Mullen (Ursinus College, 1994)
Record: 37-25 (Fifth season)
at MSU: 37-25 (Fifth season)
vs. UK: 3-0

Series Record vs. Mississippi State:
Overall: Kentucky leads series 21-19
in Starkville: Mississippi State leads series 10-7. Last Meeting: Mississippi State defeated Kentucky 27-14 in Lexington on Oct. 6, 2012.

8/31 vs. WKU [ESPNews] (Nashville) L, 26-35
9/7 Miami (Ohio) [Fox South] W, 41-7
9/14 #7/7 Louisville [ESPN] L, 13-27
9/28 #19/20 Florida* [ESPNU] L, 7-24
10/5 at 13/12 South Carolina* [FSN] L, 28-35
10/12 #1/1 Alabama* [ESPN2] L, 7-48
10/24 at Mississippi State* [ESPN] 7:30 p.m.
11/2 Alabama State TBA
11/9 Missouri* TBA
11/16 at Vanderbilt* TBA
11/23 at Georgia* TBA
11/30 Tennessee* TBA

Note: all times Eastern and subject to change
* SEC game

8/31 vs. Oklahoma State (Houston) L, 3-21
9/7 Alcorn State W, 51-7
9/14 at Auburn* L, 20-24
9/21 Troy W, 62-7
10/5 LSU* L, 26-59
10/12 Bowling Green W, 21-20
10/24 Kentucky* 7:30 p.m.
11/2 at South Carolina* TBA
11/9 at Texas A&M* TBA
11/16 Alabama* TBA
11/23 at Arkansas* (Little Rock) TBA
11/28 Ole Miss* 7:30 p.m

When Kentucky has the ball… Quarterback has been the hot topic of conversation all year long for the Wildcats, and that's the case once again this week as Max Smith is expected to get the starting assignment over Jalen Whitlow, who is just now recovering from a severely sprained ankle in the Alabama game. Whitlow has practiced this week, but how much he'll play against the Bulldogs remains a mystery. The Cats need Smith to be in early 2012 form in order to keep MSU from stacking the box and making the UK offense one-dimensional. The Bulldogs rank No. 4 in the SEC in total defense (364.5 ypg), so it's yet another solid unit the Cats are facing in a season full of them, but MSU has only eight sacks on the season. Opportunities should be there in the passing game. Senior linebacker Deontae Skinner (#11, 6-2, 250 - 34 TK, 3.5 TFL, 1 SK, 3 INT) is a big-play man for the MSU defense who must be accounted for at all times. Don't be surprised to see a few wrinkles that UK may have worked on during the open date. Our spies tell us you'll likely see some plays and packages the Cats haven't shown a lot of to date.

When Mississippi State has the ball… The Bulldogs have used a two-quarterback system for most of the season with sophomore Dak Prescott (#15, 6-2, 230 – 890 PA, 3 TD, 3 INT) leading the team in both passing and rushing. He's a dangerous runner, having gained 457 yards on 64 carries, good for 7.1 yards per attempt. This style of quarterback has given the UK defense fits in the past, so it's going to be imperative for the front seven to play disciplined and be in proper position when Prescott leaves the pocket. The Cats can't allow big scrambles from the quarterback position on long-yardage situations if they want to leave Starkville with a win. The Bulldogs are 13th in the league in third-down conversion rate (36 percent). The other MSU quarterback, Tyler Russell (#17, 6-4, 220 – 381 PA, 2 TD), has completed 70 percent of his passes this season. He played well last year against UK, passing for 269 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-14 win. Special teams could be a big factor as well. MSU is last in the SEC having missed five of its 11 field goal attempts.

• Senior running back Raymond Sanders has 1,333 career rushing yards and needs 37 more to tie Alfred Rawls for 20th on UK's career rushing list.

• Senior running back Jonathan George has 792 career rushing yards and needs just 208 more to become the 34th player in school history with 1,000 career rushing yards.

• Junior defensive end Bud Dupree has 12.5 career sacks, needing five more to tie for fourth most all-time in school history.

• Junior defensive end Za'Darius Smith has 4.5 sacks this season needing just 4.5 more to tie for the fourth most sacks in a season in school history (Jeremy Jarmon 9 in 2007, Oliver Barnett 9 in 1988).

Thursday marks the 17th time in school history that the Wildcats have played a game on Oct. 24. All but three came at home. Kentucky holds an all-time record of 8-8 on this date, but the Wildcats and Bulldogs have never met on this day. UK's first-ever game on this date was in 1896, while its last was a 36-13 win over Louisiana-Monroe in 2009.

• This is the first time Kentucky has played on Thursday night since 2007 when a 5-0 Wildcat team coached by Rich Brooks traveled to South Carolina for a primetime kickoff. The Cats dropped that game 38-23 to the Gamecocks, but bounced back the following week to defeat No. 1-ranked and eventual national champion LSU 43-37 in triple-overtime at Commonwealth Stadium.

• The road team has won six of the last seven games in the series, with Kentucky beating Mississippi State in Starkville in 2006 and 2008 and MSU claiming wins in Lexington in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2012.

• Neither team has a player on its current roster from the other state. The only two teams that UK will face this season that don't have a native son on the Wildcats' roster are Mississippi State and Missouri.

• Prior to being named athletics director at Mississippi State, Scott Stricklin was the associate athletics director for media relations at Kentucky from 2003-2008. The Bulldogs also feature defensive line coach David Turner, who was on Joker Phillips' staff from 2010-12 in Lexington and Bill Curry's staff from 1993-94.

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