The Kentucky Wildcats are off to a great start through the first half of the season! The Wildcats are 5-1 and ranked second in the SEC East race. Kentucky has opened up as a 10-point underdog as they travel to Starkville to take on the Bulldogs.
With the Cats in the race for first place, every game counts coming down the stretch, but it just so happens they play a SEC opponent in Mississippi State University. Kentucky managed to upset the Bulldogs last season on a last second 51-yard field goal by Austin MacGinnis.
If the Cats are going to pull off a must-have upset over the Bulldogs, here are the five things they need to do:
1. Make Fitzgerald Uncomfortable.
The junior quarterback is back, and he's better than ever. Fitzgerald has passed for 1,024 yards this season and 10 touchdowns. Fitzgerald has also completed over 55 percent of his passes this season for the Bulldogs.
The thing with Fitzgerald is, he is a very athletic and versatile quarterback. Along with his 1,024 yards of passing, he is also second on the team in rushing this season, with 446 yards on the ground as well as seven touchdowns. The Wildcats have been great up front and rushing the edges to put pressure on the quarterbacks, especially Josh Allen. Allen has 6.5 sacks this season to go along with 7.5 tackles for loss. If the Cats are going to get the upset, Josh Allen has to play big on the edge.
2. Keep using Benny Snell.
Snell has rushed for 526 yards this season as well as scoring six touchdowns for the Cats. Snell is averaging 4.2 yards per carry, and they are all very hard fought if you take away the 71-yard touchdown run against Mizzou.
Eddie Gran has not been able to truly see what snell could do this season until two weeks ago when Snell rushed for 117 yards and two touchdowns against Mizzou in the teams 40-34 SEC win. Gran has been doing a very good job of winning on first down and letting Snell be in a good position to get the Cats 4 yards on second and third down. Eddie Gran needs to keep using Snell this week, even if it means only averaging 3 yards per carry.
3. Contain Keith Mixon.
Mixon may not be the most stand out player in the world, but he is very good at getting open and making plays. As a matter of fact, he is leading the team with 16 catches for 238 yards. Oh yeah, he is averaging 15 yards per catch as well.
Mixon has had a very good year, but in my opinion, Kentucky could be one of the hardest defensive back teams he has played and will play all season long. Westry and Baity are just too good. Both players are very athletic, and they want the ball, and nothing will stop them from getting it. I expect Baity and Westry to play BIG in this game.
4. Less Cowbell.
So, I couldn't help but title this key as less cowbell. What I mean by that is, Kentucky needs to come out and score early to keep the crowd out of the game. Yes, I mean make them not even consider using those cowbells that every Mississippi State fan has. (It is kinda cool though)
I am not Eddie Gran, but if I were, why not come out swinging with either getting Conrad loose and hitting him for a big gain or throwing one deep to Blake Bone or let Garret "Juice" Johnson break one loose. As I said, I am not Eddie Gran, but the only way to make the crowd a non-factor in this kind of game is to make them not want to be at the game, and that happens by scoring early and often.
5. Win The Turnover battle.
Simple. Straightforward. Crucial. Kentucky isn’t winning on the road as a double-digit underdog without winning the turnover battle.
Expert Picks and Predictions
ESPN’s Sam Khan Jr and Alex Scarborough offered their thoughts on the game:
Kahn: I'm taking Kentucky with the road upset. Why not? They're mere moments in that Florida game from being unbeaten; I think the confidence level has to be high for the Wildcats right now. I say they go into Davis-Wade Stadium poised and ready.
Scarborough: I was ready to do the same until I saw the double-digit point spread. Now I'm backtracking and taking Mississippi State. The more I think about it, the more I like the Bulldogs. I think they got some confidence back by beating BYU, the home crowd will make a difference and Nick Fitzgerald, Aeris Williams and the running game will do enough to come away with the W.
Here’s what ESPN’s expert prediction machine had to say about the game:
The Lexington Herald-Leader is predicting a score of Mississippi State 30, Kentucky 27.
Athlon Sports actually has Kentucky pulling off the upset:
Kentucky is coming off of a bye and needs just one more to become bowl eligible. If not for a fourth-quarter collapse at home against Florida, the Wildcats would be undefeated. However, there’s still plenty of work left to be done and Kentucky would like nothing more than to get that all-important sixth win on Saturday as it enters the toughest portion of its schedule.
Mississippi State was on top of the world after handily beating LSU 37-7 for its victory in Starkville over the Tigers since 1999. But that games feels like it was months ago, as the Bulldogs dropped consecutive games in ugly fashion at Georgia and at Auburn before righting the ship last week at home against BYU. Head coach Dan Mullen has lost to Kentucky just once during his Bulldogs tenure, but this isn’t a typical Wildcats team that’s coming into Davis Wade Stadium.
Prediction: Kentucky 27, Mississippi State 24