Kentucky Football: Taking a look at Mississippi State

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Two teams who did not lose this past weekend take the field on Thursday night on the World Wide Leader. How do we compare?

I'm not sure how Mississippi State became our permanent SEC-W opponent and I'm sure the Bulldog fans are scratching their heads over it too. Maybe the powers that be could see the future when they made the decision. State is on track to be the doormat of the West in a fight with Atkansas and UK is on schedule to be the doormat in the East. I know, the facts hurt, but take heart Cat fans, the future is looking brighter in terms of on the field play. We have to endure this season in order to look for a brighter future.

The situation at Cowbell Country shows a mixed bag. The Bulldogs are also coming off a bye week after going 3-3 (0-2 in the SEC). They've lost to Oklahoma St. (21-3), Auburn (24-20) and LSU (59-26). The wins came against Alcorn State (51-7), Troy (62-7), and Bowling Green (21-20). State is ranked at #59 with a SOS rank of 34 while UK is ranked at #86 with a SOS rank of 6.

Since the 2009 recruiting cycle State was ranked by Rivals as having the following classes:

2009: #25 - 3.15

2010: #38 - 2.92

2011: #44 - 3.05

2012: #30 - 3.04

2013: #26 - 3.10

Their current class (2014) rank stands at #38 with an average star rating of 2.71 for their 17 commitments. Their two 4 star commitments are both from Mississippi.

For comparison, here's UK's numbers:

2009: #41- 2.69

2010: #50 - 2.77

2011: #61 - 2.96

2012: #62 - 2.88

2013: #29 - 3.05

Our current Rivals class rank is still #7 after Dorian Baker's commitment. Our average star rating is 3.28 for our 25 commitments.

As you can see, there is a talent gap between UK and MSU which is one reason the Bulldogs opened up as a 10 point favorite. UK hasn't been on the winning side of matchups since 2008. As Andrew Cassidy at KSR points out, State has outscored the Cats 110-71. Since this will be a game in Starkville, a win is possible, but not likely. Here's how we matchup, according to this week's NCAA stats:

Bulldogs - Wildcats

Rushing Offense: 214.3 (23) - 150.8 (85)

Passing Offense: 243.3 (59) - 201.5 (92)

Passing Efficiency: 133.53 (59) - 133.90 (58)

Red Zone Offense: 84.6% (t-56) - 78.9% (t-87)

Scoring Offense: 30.6 (59) - 20.3 (104)

Total Offense: 457.5 (36) - 352.3 (100)

Tackles for Loss Allowed: 5.67 (55) - 5.83 (t-61)

Sacks Allowed: 1.83 (t-58) - 2.67 (t-95)

Time of possession: 33 (6) - 26 (117)

3rd Down Conv. %: 35.9% (89) - 25.7% (119)

4th Down Conv. %: 47.1% (64) - 69.2% (15)

First Downs: 142 (t-620) - 103 (t-117)

Defense

Rushing Defense: 144.0 (t-44) - 213.3 (107)

Passing Defense: 220.5 (48) - 224.0 (53)

Scoring Defense: 23.0 (41) - 29.3 (83)

Passing Efficiency Defense: 127.92 (65) - 149.93 (110)

Passes Intercepted: 5 (t-85) - 1 (t-121)

Tackles for Loss: 6.7 (t-31) - 3.5 (119)

Sacks: 1.33 (t-106) - 2.00 (t-59)

Total Defense: 364.5 (35) - 437.3 (92)

3rd Down Conv. %: 38.0% (53) - 42.7% (93)

4th Down Conversion %: 28.6% (t-15) - 83.3% (t-120)

First Downs: 109 (14) - 131 (t-50)

Turnover Margin: +.7 (t-28) - +.2 (t-56)

Net Punting: 37.88 (43) - 35.1 (101)

Punt Returns: 0.29 (123) - 7.82 (62)

Punt Return Defense: 10.20 (89) - 9.31 (79)

Kickoff Returns: 31.25 (2) - 24.78 (24)

Kickoff Return Defense: 17.37 (33) - 18.28 (16)

Fewest Penalties per game: 6.0 (t-69) - 6.0 (t-69)

Penalty Yards per game: 45.67 (49) - 50.67 (68)

There is a reason they play the game. It is the old "any given day" argument. One can assume if Kentucky has improved coming off a bye week, then it is a given that Mississippi State has also improved coming off a bye week.

Kentucky's defense is putting up terrible numbers because of our offense. We've not seen the cultural paradigm shift yet on the offensive side of the ball. We will know it when it happens because our time of possession, 3rd down efficiency percent and number of first downs will all increase. Until that happens, I don't believe we will be seeing an SEC win. Kentucky hasn't won a SEC game on the road since we beat the Auburn Tigers, Georgia Bulldogs, and Vanderbilt Commodores all on the road in 2009.

Win? A possibility because anything is possible, it is just simply not probable.

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