The Kentucky Wildcats and Mississippi State Bulldogs renew their cross-division rivalry as they square off Saturday night in Starkville.
To get prepared for the matchup, we talked with Justin Sutton, who runs SB Nation's Mississippi State website (and maybe the best name of any blog): For Whom The Cowbell Tolls. Be sure to give him a follow on Twitter and check out their site to get the scoop on this year's edition of the Bulldogs.
1. Gives us a quick rundown of Mississippi State this season. Are they living up to expectations, exceeding them, or underperforming to this point?
JS: That is a really tough question. The Bulldogs are a missed field goal and a terrible first quarter away from possibly being undefeated. On the other hand, sitting at 5-2 with losses to LSU and Texas A&M isn't the worst thing in the world. However, I would say most fans feel this team has underperformed a bit. The Bulldogs have not yet really played an entire game, and that has not sat well with fans.
2. Josh Robinson killed the Wildcats last year while they actually did a decent job of stopping Dak Prescott. Other than Prescott, who are your offensive weapons this season that can carry the offense if Prescott isn't doing the damage?
JS: This year, the Bulldogs rushing attack has surprised most with its inability to be effective from the running back position. Many fans made the mistake of thinking it would be next man up behind Robinson, and that has not happened. Instead, most of the offensive playmakers have been at the wide receiver position.
De'Runnya Wilson and Fred Ross have been among the SEC leaders in receptions. Donald Grey has looked great when he as been on the field. As far as running backs Malik Dear has show flashes at the position and so has Brandon Holloway.
3. Speaking of Prescott, he's attempting almost 40 passes per game and has yet to throw an interception. Talk about his development and how good he is now in his senior season.
JS: I'm not sure anyone expected to see Prescott throwing the ball as much as he has this season. The Bulldogs have really been forced into that position because the running game has struggled so much. To no have thrown an interception at this point requires skill and a bit of luck. There have been opportunities that other teams have missed.
However, Prescott has not run the ball as much this year, so he has really gone about it all quietly. All of the talk entering the season was that he was a Heisman candidate, and with a few losses that is all gone. The thing is, he is still putting together a great season. I can't think of many quarterbacks I would want running my team more than Prescott.
4. Mark Stoops said earlier this week that MSU's big receivers really impressed him. Talk about them and who's the go-to guy in your offense.
JS: The two that jump out the most are Wilson and Ross. I'd call them both go-to guys because Prescott will target them all game long. However, there are several other receivers to watch. Fred Brown makes a big play or two it seems every game. Gus Walley, if cleared, has been a target from the tight end position. Two other receivers that are missing in action right now are Gabe Myles and Joe Morrow. If they don't make the field, look for Wilson and Ross to get most of the targets.
5. What's MSU's biggest weakness(s) that UK will/should look to expose?
JS: Mississippi State gives up points early in the game, and they clamp down late. If Kentucky wants to make something happen, they need to get points on the board on their first few possessions. If Kentucky is not up early in the first quarter, the Wildcats have missed a great opportunity.
6. Who are the guys on defense that UK fans need to know about?
JS: Defensively, the Bulldogs look like they will be without Will Redmond, a senior corner who reportedly suffered a torn ACL. It will be interesting to see who takes his place, perhaps Cedric Jiles. Kentucky might look to pick on him, even though he has seen game action.
Brandon Bryant has jumped into action at the safety position and has made big plays in both of his starts. Along the defensive line AJ Jefferson has just camped out in backfields this season, and Chris Jones is always a threat to have a big game. Lineback Richie Brown is everywhere, so expect to hear his name early and often.
7. What's your prediction for Saturday?
JS: I think Kentucky will keep this game pretty close through the first half or three quarters. Patrick Towles is a good quarterback, and he proved last year he could move the offense against Mississippi State. My guess is that the Bulldogs find a way to pull away in the fourth and walk out with a 10-point win.