The Other Huddle: Kentucky

#1 Mississippi State will return to the road for third game away from Davis Wade Stadium on the 2014 schedule. This week, the Bulldogs travel to face Kentucky. The Wildcats are 5-2 on the season and playing for bowl eligibility. The Bulldogs are playing for much higher stakes and an improving Kentucky team is expected to bring their best effort into this weekend's contest. publisher Jeff Drummond was kind enough to share his thoughts on the match-up as the Bulldogs come to town.

The Wildcats are one of the most improved teams in the Southeastern Conference. Drummond believes the program is simply maturing under the direction of Coach Mark Stoops.

"The biggest difference, simply, is talent level and development," Drummond explained. "They've recruited extremely well the last two years, and they're playing a ton of young people.

"Some of their key veterans have also come back bigger, stronger, faster -- completely buying into Stoops' vision for the program. That's helped them develop a ton of confidence. They got beaten badly last week at LSU, but they went on that trip expecting to win, not just hoping to win."

Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown has been able to mix things up a bit this fall thanks in large part to the return of quarterback Patrick Towles who sat out the 2013 season due to injury.

"The most impressive thing about Brown's play-calling to date has been his flexibility," Drummond shared. "I think a lot of OCs get handcuffed to a rigid philosophy. Brown is the consummate "take what the defense gives you" kind of guy.

"He's won games by letting Patrick Towles air it out; he won one game by running Towles 20-something times; he's won a game by going with almost all-Wildcat formation. Whatever it takes to get the job done. Kentucky had issues getting off the press coverage of LSU's outstanding DBs last week, so they weren't able to throw it deep as often as they would have liked.

The Mississippi State offense will look to counter the Kentucky attack with a balanced offensive effort that starts with the rushing efforts of quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Josh Robinson.

Drummond reports that opponents have had some success running right at the Wildcat defense.

"The power run game had been an issue for Kentucky most of the season," Drummond reported. "Matt Jones from Florida and Mike Davis from South Carolina both had big days against them.

"They came into LSU week really concerned about Leonard Fournette, but did a surprisingly good job on him. I think the Tigers had 70-something yards at halftime. They were able to chip away as the game got out of hand, though. Most of those yards came long after the game had been decided and UK's defense wore down from the offense's inability to get anything going."

While the 'Cats have faced some talented backs, Dak Prescott brings a different look to what Kentucky has prepared for most weeks.

"I don't think they've faced anyone in Dak's mold, but they've faced two or three teams that ran a lot of zone-read stuff out of spread formations," said Drummond. "In the past, it's been a scheme that has given UK a lot of trouble. They're a little better equipped to face it now, but it's still a big concern. The staff has a ton of respect for Dak and his ability."

Since the SEC named the Wildcats and Bulldogs permanent cross divisional opponents, the fan bases have embraced this as one of the more friendlier rivalries in the league.

"I think a lot of UK fans view MSU as a "mirror-type" program in the West," explained Drummond. "Ideally, the Cats would like to duplicate what the Bulldogs have done to string together a number of bowl seasons and then make a big splash like MSU has on the national stage this season.

"For whatever reason, though, it's always been a very competitive series, and that makes for a good "permanent" opponent out of the West. Even as low as the UK program got in recent years, I think three of the last five games were settled by seven or less points. If it's that type of game Saturday, win or lose, I think the Big Blue Nation will be pleased with the performance."

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