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Kentucky Wildcats Football Season Preview: Mississippi State Bulldogs

We are creeping closer to football season so I am continuing my look at the opponents that the Wildcats will be facing this season. Week 7 sees a road trip to Starkville, where Kentucky has not won since 2008.

NCAA Football: St. Petersburg Bowl-Miami (Ohio) at Mississippi State Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Probably one of the more frustrating losing streaks for Kentucky Wildcats football was the 7 game streak to Dan Mullen and the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

For the most part, the teams were on the same talent level, but the Bulldogs just kept finding ways to win. Three of those losses were by a touchdown or less, but Kentucky could not figure out Mullen.

Last season seemed to be the same script as they were on the verge of another late game meltdown. That changed when Austin MacGinnis booted a 51 yard FG with time expiring and while it was not pretty, the Cats had toppled Mullen.

Last year admittedly was a down year for the Bulldogs, but it was a game that Kentucky was supposed to win and they did. It was a big step in the team’s psyche and don't be shocked if Kentucky is the favorite this time around. Even on the road, this is a game that Kentucky needs to win if they want to be considered a contender in the East.

Look for the offense to be solid yet again. While he was no Dak Prescott, Nick Fitzgerald accounted for 37 touchdowns, 16 of them were on the ground. He led the team in rushing with 1,375 yards and had eight games of over 100 years, including running all over Ole Miss for 258.

As expected, he struggled with the passing game at times in his first full season but had some bright spots. He passed for 2,423 yards and had 21 touchdowns against just 10 interceptions. He is not terribly accurate, completing just 54.3%. He was a mixed bag against Kentucky, rushing for 107 yards and 2 TDs, but the Wildcats forced by far his worst passing day, holding him to just 81 yards.

Aeris Williams took second fiddle in the rushing attack for the Bulldogs but still finished with 720 yards and 4 TDs. He ended up with 58 carries less than Fitzgerald and 1.8 yards less per carry. The money is on Fitzgerald to still get most of the carries but Williams is capable of a big game as he did against Ole Miss with 191 yards and 2 TDs.

Fitzgerald's favorite target, Fred Ross is gone, but it is not a stretch to see Donald Gray step up and fill the void. Gray had 709 yards receiving and 5 TDs last year and is poised to be a 1,000 yard wide out. Keith Mixon and Malik Dear will also grab plenty of balls, and look for the Bulldog tight ends to figure in the game plan this year. Farrod Green, at 6'3 and 222, should have a solid sophomore season and build on last year's freshman campaign.

The offensive line has been a big disappointment the last couple of years and three starters from last season are gone. Expect the line to struggle against the better defensive lines and this could be a big win match up if Kentucky's defensive line can match up.

The defense was kind of a mess for the Bulldogs last year, so there really is nowhere to go but up. The biggest addition to the defense is that of defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. Grantham has built powerhouse defenses in Georgia and Louisville but he has his work cut out in year one. Grantham will immediately provide stability as he will be the fourth defensive coordinator in the past four seasons.

There is talent on the defensive line with Jeffrey Simmons returning, but the new players are what will get the buzz. In addition to Chauncey Rivers of "Last Chance U" fame, the Bulldogs add two of the top JUCO defensive tackle prospects in Deion Pope and Lee Autry. Former Michigan State defensive lineman Montez Sweat will figure in here as well.

Leo Lewis emerged as a star in the linebacking corps but freshman Willie Gay could be an impactful player here. Gay is a four-star recruit that chose the hometown Bulldogs over SEC West rivals Alabama and LSU. The defensive secondary will be a rebuilt one as well with three JUCO transfers looking to gain playing time, including former Georgia Bulldogs safety Johnathan Abram.

Also, Tolando Cleveland looks to make a strong comeback after missing last year with a torn ACL. By the time that Kentucky rolls into Starkville, look for the defense to be much improved with all of the new talent in the defensive unit.

While Kentucky may be favored, this will be a tough game for the Wildcats on the road. The offense will be tough to stop and the defense should be much improved under Grantham. If the defense is not improved greatly, Kentucky will take this game. However, I look for the Bulldogs to be a bounce back team from last season and I will call this one 28-24 for the Bulldogs.