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UK vs. Mississippi St.: Stats, thoughts, and a prediction

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This is a game UK absolutely must win if they are the least bit interested in reaching seven wins, thus assuring a bowl bid.  But, if Kentucky is looking for that extra bit of motivation for their game (otherwise known as a 'must win') at Mississippi State (3-5 overall, 1-3 in the SEC) today, they only need to look at last week's scoreboard, and last year's MSU contest. 

There's no need to rehash the 63-5 "Swamp Stomp."  If a 58 point loss doesn't motivate ya, you can turn in your equipment at the Nutter Center. As for last year's UK home loss to MSU (31-14); that game served as the lowest point in the season, because Kentucky lost to a team that they were much better than, and they lost at home.  It can best be described as an uninspired effort.  Three UK turnovers, along with Bulldog running backs Anthony Dixon and Christian Ducre ensured UK's unexpected demise at the hands of MSU. 

For those Kentucky players who participated in both last years MSU debacle and last week's Gator death-dive, this is what you've been waiting for; an opportunity to redeem yourself. 

Mississippi State's Wins and Losses

MSU's wins have come against Southeastern Louisiana (34-10), Vanderbilt (17-14), and Middle Tennessee (31-22).  Although they have only those three victories, they have won two of their last three games.  MSU has lost to Louisiana Tech (24-14), Auburn (3-2, yes, 3-2), Georgia Tech (38-7), LSU (34-24), and Tennessee (34-3).

Mississippi St. Offensive Personnel of Interest

Quarterback Tyson Lee: 5'11", 190 lb junior --  Lee took over the starting quarterback spot from Wesley Carrol in the LSU game (five games ago), and has played solidly since.  On the year, Lee has completed 88 of 141 passes (62.4%) for 858 yards and two touchdowns.  Lee came to MSU in January from Itawamba Community College in Mississippi, where he was named a JUCO 1st Team All-America.  In his two year JUCO career he threw for 4,432 yards and 31 touchdowns (he completed over 65% of his passes).  The Bulldogs are 2-2 in his four starts, and he has provided the Dogs with a definite upgrade in their passing game.

Running back Anthony Dixon: 6'1", 238 lb junior -- Dixon is MSU's experienced, workhorse back.  In his three year career he has played in 33 games, with 25 starts.  This year Dixon has rushed for 599 yards (74.9 yards per game), he averages 4.3 yards per carry.  He's also scored six touchdowns.  For his career, Dixon has ran for 2,333 yards and 29 touchdowns.  Dixon can also catch the ball; this year he has made eight catches for 49 yards. 

Last year, in MSU's upset win over the 'Cats, Dixon rushed 25 times for 75 yards, with a receiving and rushing touchdown.

Running back Christian Ducre: 6'0", 227 lb junior -- The Tulane transfer has rushed for 217 yards, averaging 4.0 yards per rush with two touchdowns.  Ducre is also the third leading receiver on the MSU squad, catching 13 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown. 

Last year versus UK Ducre had a huge game: 19 rushes for 119 yards and one touchdown (a 34 yard run), which happened to seal the win for the 'Dogs.  He also caught five passes for 30 yards.

Wide receiver Brandon MCrae: 6'4", 205 lb junior -- The Morehead State transfer leads the Bulldogs in receptions (37) and receiving yards with 361.  He's also scored two touchdowns.  Last year he played in 13 games where he caught two passes for 50 yards.

Wide receiver Aubrey Bell: 6'3", 216 lb senior -- Bell, MSU's second leading receiver, has made 25 catches for 213 yards.  For his career Bell has 49 catches for 575 yards and one touchdown. 

Last year versus UK, Bell made two catches for 25 yards.

Wide receiver Co-Eric Riley: 6'1", 202 lb senior -- Riley has caught 10 passes for 92 yards this year.  In his 20 game career Riley has made 18 catches for 160 yards.

Mississippi State Defensive Personnel of Interest 

Defensive Back Derek Pegues: 5'10", 190 lb senior -- Pegues is the Bulldog's Mr. Do-it-all.  He not only mans one of the corner back spots, where he has 31 tackles and one interception, but he's also the team's most valuable special teams member: He is MSU's primary kick returner, returning 17 punts for 137 yards (8.1 average), and twenty-three kick-offs for 531 yards (23.1 average).  Pegues has 4.4 speed.  He was considered one of the top high school players in the nation in 2004. 

Linebacker Dominic Douglas: 6'2", 235 lb senior -- Douglas leads the 'Dogs defense with 58 tackles and four tackles for loss.  In his year-and-a-half career, the JUCO transfer has made 136 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, and one sack.

Linebacker K. J. Wright: 6'3", 226 lb sophomore -- Wright has 40 tackles, with 6.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. 

Last year versus UK, Wright made a special teams fumble recovery.

Free safety Keith Fitzhugh: 5'11", 205 lb senior -- This year Fitzhugh has made 32 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, with one sack and two interceptions.  For his career Fitzhugh has six interceptions.  He is another very quick Bulldog defensive back (4.4 speed). 

Defensive tackle Cortez McCraney: 6'4", 280 lb senior -- The big man in the middle has made 32 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and two sacks.  The Memphis transfer started four games last year, making 24 tackles (4.5 tackles for loss).  McCraney played only one year of high school ball.

Center J.C. Brignone: 6'1", 290 lb sophomore -- Brignone is the reigning SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week after his performance against Middle Tennessee last week.

MSU Stats

  • MSU averages 16.5 points per game, and gives up 22.1 points per game.
  • MSU averages 3.4 yards per rush as a team, and allows 4.0 yards per rush.
  • MSU only averages 294.9 yards of total offense per game, but they give up only 298.6 total yards per game.
  • MSU averages only 36.5 yards per punt.
  • MSU converts 36% of their third down tries, but they hold their opponents to only a 33% conversion rate.
  • MSU is 18-27 (67%) in the red zone, and they've only scored 15 touchdowns (56%) in those 27 red zone visits. 
  • MSU's opponents are 22-26 (85%) in red zone visits, but they have scored only 14 touchdowns (54%).
  • MSU has been outscored 48-37 in the fourth quarter.
  • MSU place kicker Adam Carlson has made only 6-10 field goal attempts.  He's missed from 18, 32, 38, and 39 yards, but he's 3-3 from 40-49 yards (this is what makes coaches go crazy).  Carlson also handles the kick-off duties where he has recorded zero touch backs.

UK vs. MSU SEC Statistical Comparison - SEC rank in parenthesis.

  • Scoring - UK 22.9 ppg (6th), MSU 16.5 ppg (12th).
  • Scoring defense - UK 18.2 ppg (7th), MSU 22.1 ppg (9th).
  • Total offense - UK 317.8 (8th), MSU 294.9 (9th).
  • Total defense - UK 302.6 (8th), MSU 298.6 (7th).
  • Rushing offense - UK 125.5 (9th), MSU 120.9 (10th).
  • Rushing defense - UK 137.4 (10th), MSU 144.5 (11th).
  • Pass offense - UK 192.2 (7th), MSU 174.0 (8th).
  • Pass defense - UK 165.2 (3rd), MSU 154.1 (2nd).
  • Sacks by - UK 19 (2nd), MSU 12 (t11th).
  • Sacks against - UK 7 (1st), MSU 19 (10th).
  • 3rd Down conversions - UK 30.9% (12th), MSU 36.1 (8th).
  • Opp's 3rd Down conversions - UK 26.1% (3rd), MSU 33.0% (6th).
  • Turnover margin - UK +7 (2nd), MSU -4 (8th).

UK SEC Statistical Leaders

  • Receptions per game - 1. Dicky Lyons 5.5 pg.
  • Kick-off return average - 6. Derrick Locke 28.5 pr.
  • All-Purpose yardage - 6. Derrick Locke 116.0 ypg.
  • Punting - 1. Tim Masthay 46.0 ypp.
  • Tackles - t7. Braxton Kelley 8.0 pg, 9. Micah Johnson 7.7 pg.
  • Interceptions - t2. Trevard Lindley 4, t2. Marcus McClinton 4.

Final Thoughts

I think Randall Cobb makes the difference today.  MSU coach Sylvester Croom should see things today out of Cobb that he hasn't seen on tape; Rich Brooks and Joker Phillips should have in place a number of sets, looks, and plays that we have yet to see this year.  With this game serving as Cobb's first college start, I feel something special is about to happen. 

If not ... I don't even want to ponder the implications of UK being 5-4 instead of 6-3.

I'm going optimistic .. UK - 24 MSU - 16

Thanks for reading, and Go Cats! beat the 'Dogs.