Kentucky Football: The Wildcats Look to Get Rolling against the Bulldogs

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

It's the second half of the season and the Wildcats will face a tough road test in Starkville. Did the 'Cats get healthy on their bye week or will they still be missing some important pieces? I preview that game and a couple more in the article.

The Kentucky Wildcats are limping into a big time Thursday night SEC road game after losing four games in a row, all against teams ranked in the top 25. Despite showing some promise against Louisville and on the road against South Carolina, the ‘Cats are still winners of just one game so far this season.

The master plan was to get to the bye week unscathed and relatively healthy; that all came apart with multiple injuries, most importantly Bud Dupree against the Gamecocks and Jalen Whitlow against Alabama. The good news? Both of them may play in Starkville. Dupree was missed but Jason Hatcher was able to fill in and do a nice job on defense. Hatcher was also injured but still was able to play with a broken hand.

Whitlow is the player that was missed the most. His break-out performance against South Carolina gave hope to Kentucky fans that maybe, just maybe, the offense would finally get off the ground. But those hopes were dashed as Whitlow was taken down and was seen writhing in pain. Max Smith entered the game and the offense came to an abrupt, screeching halt. Did that stagnation have more to do with Alabama's smothering defense or the poor play of Max Smith? We will most certainly see against the Bulldogs as Smith will see significant playing time on Thursday.

What once looked like a promising second half of the season has all of a sudden turned into another slew of really tough games. Tennessee took down South Carolina, Vanderbilt defeated Georgia, and Missouri is undefeated, sitting at #5 in the BCS rankings. But none of these teams are bullet proof. All of them have chinks in their armor and can be beaten. But before we get ahead of ourselves, we need to take a look at the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

Thursday, October 24th: Kentucky Wildcats (1-5, 0-3) at Mississippi State Bulldogs (3-3, 0-2)- 7:30 PM on ESPN

The cowbells will be jingling and jangling when the Wildcats take the field tonight. Like most SEC teams, the people at Mississippi State make their home field a very difficult place to play for visiting opponents. Luckily, this won't be the first conference road test for the Wildcats.

Kentucky can win this game but it's going not going to be easy. The Bulldogs are a double digit favorite at home but they haven't been overly impressive this season. They have been blown out by LSU and Oklahoma State. They lost to Auburn on the barely survived against Bowling Green at home. Their defense is giving up 23 points a game while their offense is scoring 30.5; not a lot of separation in those respective categories.

Quarterback Dak Prescott is Mr. Everything for Mississippi State. He is leading the team in touchdowns (11), passing yard (890), and rushing yards (457). The Bulldogs are pretty much one dimensional on offense, and he's the dimension. It's a well-known fact that the Wildcats continue to struggle against quarterbacks that can run as well as they can pass. We've already seen this deficiency on display twice this season against Florida and South Carolina. Can Kentucky finally learn from their lessons?

MSU is also a team in search of their conference win and one can argue that they need it more. They still have South Carolina, Texas A&M, Alabama and Ole Miss to contend with before the season ends. Kentucky has a few more winnable games this season, conference and otherwise. Mississippi State is going to come into this game hungry and riled up at home. Can Kentucky match the spirit and the passion that the Bulldogs will bring?

It always seems as if the game against Mississippi State is a make or break type of game for the Wildcats. A bowl isn't on the line and neither is a winning record; but this game is important because the ‘Cats have had time to get healthy and they could start a trend that could carry them in the weeks to come.

We've been saying "Let's get to the second bye week and then see what happens" since the schedule came out. Well, the bye week has come and gone. Time to see what the ‘Cats are made of against a beatable opponent.

Kentucky Wildcats 20-Mississippi State Bulldogs 17

SEC Game of the Week: Saturday, October 26: #21 South Carolina Gamecocks (5-2, 3-2) at #5 Missouri Tigers (7-0, 3-0)- 7:00 PM on ESPN 2

The Gamecocks in a position that they didn't think they would be in at the beginning of the year; looking up at Missouri in the SEC East standings. They were tabbed as a national title contender before the season started. Things haven't gone as well as expected. The loss at Georgia is a forgivable sin but the loss at Tennessee is not. The loss of Connor Shaw due to a knee injury is even a bigger blow to the Gamecocks as he was playing some very good football.

Now the shoulders of stud Mike Davis will be heavy as he becomes the major focal point of the offense. Dylan Thompson is an experienced quarterback but he does not have the talent and skill of Shaw. South Carolina's defense has been disappointing to say the least with Jadaveon Clowney having a less than stellar season. The unit is giving up 22.7 points a game.

Missouri has gone from a two win team to a top five team nationally. The win over Georgia put them on the map but the loss of quarterback James Franklin left many with questions about how the team would react. They answered those questions by pummeling Florida 36-17. Mizzou is scoring 44.3 points a game and is rushing for 234.4 yards a game. Quarterback Maty Mauk stepped in for Franklin and put up 295 yards through the air, a touchdown through the air and another touchdown on the ground.

Missouri has some mojo going right now and South Carolina is a wounded animal. I think the Tigers take care of business at home. I don't think Dylan Thompson is going to be able to keep this team moving in the right direction if Shaw doesn't play.

Missouri Tigers 35-South Carolina Gamecocks 24

National Game of the Week: Saturday, October 28th: #12 UCLA Bruins (5-1, 2-1) at #3 Oregon Ducks (7-0, 4-0)- 7:00 PM on ESPN

The UCLA Bruins were the toast of LA as USC was fresh off of losing and firing their head coach. The Bruins were ranked in the top ten and were touting a Heisman hopeful at quarterback. And then they got smacked on the road by Stanford. Brett Hundley went from a major offensive weapon behind center to throwing for 192 yards and two interceptions. The reality check hurt and it wasn't pretty. UCLA's offensive line was dominated and exposed by the Cardinal defensive front. And their conciliation prize is another road trip, this time to Eugene.

And the Ducks just keep rolling along. They again embarrassed a PAC 12 opponent by defeating Washington State 62-38. At least Mike Leach's Cougars were able to put some points on the board. I honestly don't think that UCLA has a chance in this game unless Oregon looks ahead to next week's contest at Stanford. That game will more than likely decide the PAC 12 title and will have national title implications for both teams as well. Stanford has one loss but they are not out of the BCS title picture.

But the Ducks will stay focused and take care of business at home.

Oregon Ducks 54-UCLA Bruins 20

Last Week: I actually had last week of due to UK's bye, but I'm having myself quite a season thus far. I am 13-5 and looking to keep it rolling. Don't make me look stupid, Wildcats. I do that well enough on my own.

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