Scout.com/Jeff Drummond

Breaking down the Kentucky Wildcats' matchup against the Mississippi State Bulldogs

This AllWildcats.com feature gives you everything you need to know about the Kentucky Wildcats' matchup with the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Saturday in Starkville.

KENTUCKY vs. MISSISSIPPI STATE

WHEN: SATURDAY, OCT. 24, 7:30 PM ET

WHERE: DAVIS WADE STADIUM (61,337) STARKVILLE, MISS.

TV: SEC NETWORK

KENTUCKY WILDCATS

Record: 4-2, 2-2 SEC

Ranking: Not ranked

Coach: Mark Stoops (Iowa, 1989)

Record: 11-19 (Third season) at UK: 11-19 (Third season) vs. MSU: 0-2

Previous Game: L, 30-27 vs. Auburn

Next Game: Oct. 31 vs. Tennessee

MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS

Record: 5-2, 1-2 SEC

Ranking: Receiving votes

Coach: Dan Mullen (Ursinus College, 1994)

Record: 51-32 (Seventh season) at MSU: 51-32 (Seventh season) vs. UK: 6-0

Previous Game: W, 45-20 vs. Louisiana Tech

Next Game: Nov. 5 at Missouri

*****

Series Record: Tied, 21-21

In Starkville: Mississippi State leads, 11-7

Last Meeting: Mississippi State won, 45-31 (Lexington)

BIG BLUE KEYS TO THE GAME:

When Kentucky has the ball… The Cats need to get out the gates strong and avoid big negative momentum plays early, the type that can whip the MSU crowd into a cowbell-ringing frenzy. UK has been able to recover from a couple of shaky starts this season against South Carolina and Missouri, but it's probably too much to ask to do it once again in a game where the Cats are double-digit underdogs. Don't be surprised if UK offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson leans on the run and Stanley "Boom" Williams (469 yards, 7.2 ypc, 3 TD) early in the game. The Bulldogs rank fourth in the SEC in scoring defense (18.0 ppg) but only ninth in total defense (368.4 ypg), and that's after playing all four of their weaker, non-conference opponents this season. That could signal a bit of hope for the Cats if they play a "clean" game from turnover/penalty standpoint. MSU junior defensive lineman A.J. Jefferson (No. 47, 6-foot-3, 277) is a dangerous playmaker, having recorded 10.5 tackles for loss and four sacks this season. Junior linebacker Richie Brown (No. 39, 6-2, 245) is another Bulldog to watch. He's posted a team-high 61 tackles, 5.0 TFL and 3.5 sacks. State has posted 19 sacks this season, ranking fifth in the SEC. UK has allowed 19 sacks, ranking 12th. The O-Line needs to come through with one of its better efforts of the season.

When Mississippi State has the ball… Simple but not easy: contain Bulldogs quarterback Dak Prescott, one of the finest players in the country. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound senior IS the MSU offense. He leads the team in passing (1,700 yards, 11 TD, 0 INT) and rushing (254 net yards, 4 TD). Prescott is one of only three players in SEC history to pass for 50 or more touchdowns and rush for 30 or more scores, accounting for 90 in his record-breaking MSU career. He's not running the ball as much this season as he has in the past, thanks in part to a more refined passing game. Kentucky is in one of those difficult spots as a defense, needing both pressure and containment. Defensive end Jason Hatcher could play a key role in that regard. Also keep a close eye on nose tackle Matt Elam, who moves into the starting role after Melvin Lewis fractured his fibula last week. MSU junior wide receiver De'Runnya Wilson (No. 1, 6-foot-5, 215 pounds) is a big challenge for UK freshman Chris Westry, who needs to come through with one of his best performances of the season. Wilson has recorded 29 catches for 435 yards and five touchdowns this season. Fellow junior Fred Ross (No. 8, 6-2, 207) is another physical target for the UK secondary. He leads the Bulldogs with 38 receptions. The Cats' J.D. Harmon may be called upon for more reps due to his size and physicality.

MILESTONE WATCH:

Junior QB Patrick Towles has 4,463 passing yards for his career, ranking seventh in UK history. Towles needs 51 passing yards to pass Rick Norton (1963-65) for sixth place. ... Sophomore running back Stanley "Boom" Williams needs 58 yards rushing to become the 35th member of the Wildcats' 1,000-yard club. ... Junior wide receiver Ryan Timmons needs 64 yards receiving to become the 25th player in school history to reach the 1,000-yard plateau.

ON THIS DATE IN UK HISTORY:

Kentucky defeated Earlham 81-3 on Oct. 24, 1914, but the date has generally been unkind to the Wildcats over the years. UK has won only one league game on Oct. 24 since the SEC was formed in 1932. That came in a 7-0 victory over Florida in 1936. Kentucky defeated non-conference foes Louisiana-Monroe (2009) and Villanova (1953) on this date.

NOTES:

  • Eighteen of UK sophomore wide receiver Dorian Baker's 30 catches have produced a first down or a touchdown this season.
  • UK ranks ninth nationally in red-zone offense, scoring on 21 of 22 opportunities.
  • UK is 9-0 under Mark Stoops when holding a lead entering the fourth quarter.
  • MSU has outscored opponents 55-12 in the fourth quarter this season and has yet to allow a touchdown in the final stanza.
  • MSU has won 27 consecutive home games against unranked opponents.
  • MSU's Dak Prescott is the only active FBS player with at least 6,000 career passing yards and 2,000 career rushing yards.


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