Here we go, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation. It’s time to challenge the #1 team in the nation in Commonwealth Stadium, and try to pull the upset of the season in the SEC and bowl eligibility in one fell swoop. It’s the Kentucky Wildcats versus the Mississippi State Bulldogs, our permanent cross-division rival, in a game of significant import for both teams.
There is nothing to say about this game that hasn’t been said. Kentucky is a substantial underdog, and deservedly so. Mississippi State got to this position by handling the Auburn Tigers in Starkville two weeks ago. Now, they come to Commonwealth Stadium trying to defend their #1 ranking for the first time.
For Kentucky to win, here are the things they need to accomplish:
Get turnovers — A well-played game by both teams equals a UK defeat. UK needs to turn the Bulldogs over.
Get stout against the run — MSU is a great running team from both the tailback and quarterback positions. Kentucky must at least slow them down.
Play solid on special teams — Last week’s thunderous beat-down was largely due to disastrous special teams play.
Throw the ball to set up the run — The Bulldogs famously have a weak pass defense. Patrick Towles must bring his "A" game, and the offensive line as well. If UK can throw the ball successfully, they can force MSU to put fewer players in the box.
Play with confidence — Facing a top-ranked squad can take a toll on a team’s confidence. Kentucky must not let that happen.
Big plays — The more big plays Kentucky creates on either side of the ball, the better their chance of winning.
This is a tough spot for Kentucky, but it is at home where UK has no excuse to come out flat and lose the game early. The Wildcats need to hang in this one and give themselves a chance to win the football game. The closer they stay, and the longer they stay there, the less the #1 ranking matters and the more the home crowd can help.
Let’s get this done.