KENTUCKY vs. MISSISSIPPI STATE
When: Saturday, 3:30 ET
Where: Lexington, Ky., Commonwealth Stadium (62,093)
Record: 5-2, 2-2 Southeastern Conference
Ranking: Not ranked
Last game: L, at LSU 41-3
Coach: Mark Stoops (Iowa, 1989) 2nd Season at UK; 2nd season overall
MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS:
Record: 6-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference
Ranking: No. 1 AP; No. 1 USA Today
Last game: W, vs. No. 2/2 Auburn 38-23
Coach: Dan Mullen (Ursinus, 1994) 6th Season at MSU; 6th season overall
Overall: UK leads series 21-20
In Lexington: UK leads series 12-8
Last meeting: MSU 28-22 in Starkville (Oct. 24, 2013)
UK SCHEDULE, RESULTS:
8/30 UT Martin [SEC Network] W, 59-14
9/6 Ohio [ESPNU] W, 20-3
9/13 at Florida* [SEC Network] L, 30-36 3OT
9/27 Vanderbilt* [SEC Network] W, 17-7
10/4 South Carolina* [SEC Network] W, 45-38
10/11 ULM [SEC Network] W, 48-14
10/18 at LSU* [SEC Network] L,3-41
10/25 Mississippi State* [CBS] 3:30 p.m.
11/1 at Missouri* [SEC Network] 4 p.m.
11/8 Georgia* TBA
11/15 at Tennessee* TBA
11/29 at Louisville TBA
All times ET; * SEC game
MSU SCHEDULE, RESULTS:
8/30 Southern Miss W, 49-0
9/06 UAB W, 47-34
9/13 at South Alabama W, 35-3
9/20 at LSU* W, 34-29
10/04 Texas A&M* W, 48-31
10/11 Auburn* W, 38-23
10/25 at Kentucky* 3:30 p.m.
11/01 Arkansas* TBA
11/08 UT Martin TBA
11/15 at Alabama* TBA
11/22 Vanderbilt* TBA
11/29 at Ole Miss* TBA
All times ET; * SEC game
BIG BLUE KEYS TO THE GAME:
When Kentucky has the ball… The Cats must do a much better job in the running game and moving the chains than they did last week at LSU. The more UK can keep State’s potent offense standing on the sidelines, the better its chances are for an upset. The big issue here is that the Bulldogs are much stronger in their front seven than LSU, and the Tigers allowed UK only 71 yards on 27 carries, a paltry 2.6 yards per attempt. If that happens again, the game will rest solely on Patrick Towles’ arm. It would take a monster game from the Cats’ sophomore quarterback to overcome being that one-dimensional, but State has been prone to some big passing numbers this season (last in the SEC at 308.3 yards per game). That figure is somewhat deceptive, however, due to the fact that MSU has jumped all over several opponents for early leads and made them rely on the passing game in an effort to come back. When that happens, All-American candidate Benardrick McKinney (No. 50, 6-5, 245) shines. The junior linebacker has 41 tackles, six tackles for loss and three sacks this season.
When MSU has the ball… The Bulldogs bring one of the best players in the country to town in the form of junior quarterback Dak Prescott (No. 15, 6-2, 235), who has drawn comparisons to former Florida All-American Tim Tebow for his ability to hurt opponents with the run or the pass in Dan Mullen’s spread attack. He has completed 62 percent of his passes on the season for 1,478 yards and 14 touchdowns with only four interceptions. He has also rushed for 576 yards and eight scores. Therein lies the problem for the Cats and everyone else who has faced MSU this season. Do you try to take away the run or the pass? The Bulldogs might be the most balanced team in the country, averaging 264 yards on the ground and 265 yards through the air. The hunch here is that UK attempts to stack the box and force State to throw the ball more often than running it, especially since the defense has been extremely opportunistic with 12 interceptions this season. Keep an eye on the matchups between UK's smaller defensive backs and MSU's long, physical receivers. If the Cats have any chance to pull an upset, they need a huge effort from their defensive line, particularly senior ends Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith. They’ll be counted on heavily to provide containment so that Prescott doesn’t turn would-be defensive stops into big gains.
Senior wide receivers Demarco Robinson and Javess Blue have 833 and 822 career receiving yards, respectively. They can become the 23rd and 24th players in school history with 1,000-plus receiving yards.
ON THIS DAY IN UK HISTORY:
Today marks the 16th time in program history that Kentucky has played on October 25th with the Wildcats holding a 8-7 record… UK and Mississippi State met on this date in 2003 with the Cats claiming a 42-17 win in Lexington… In 1997, Tim Couch completed 41 of 55 passes against Georgia, setting the school record for most completions in a game. He later eclipsed that mark with 47 in 1998 against Arkansas.
• It’s Homecoming Weekend at Kentucky. The Cats hold a 48-20 all-time record in Homecoming games.