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Kentucky Football vs Southern Miss Golden Eagles Primer

What you need to know and more about the Wildcats’ 2017 season opener.

NCAA Football: Conference USA Championship-Western Kentucky vs Southern Mississippi Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports

It’s that time of year again (finally). Week 1 of the college football season for Kentucky has arrived, and with it comes a chance for redemption.

The Cats will take on Southern Miss, a team who beat UK 44-35 last year when they scored 34 unanswered points in the final 30 minutes and 26 seconds of the game.

Some speculated that this meltdown happened because Shannon Dawson (former Kentucky offensive coordinator, current So. Miss OC) knew what was going on, but that’s neither here nor there, because blowing a 35-10 lead is pretty ridiculous.

This is Kentucky’s chance to avenge the loss. The team won’t look all that much different (although Drew Barker will be behind Stephen Johnson on the depth chart), but if the turnaround last year was any indication, they’ll look a lot better and a lot more consistent this time around.

This game will be huge for guys like Stephen Johnson and Benny Snell. How will Johnson handle being the day-one starter this year? And the same goes for Snell, who didn’t even get a touch in the So. Miss game last season.

And say the Cats do get a big lead again; the focus will be all on the defense and how they handle that lead. Will they be able to hold on all the way through this time?

Game: Kentucky Wildcats (0-0) at Southern Miss Golden Eagles (0-0)

Time: 4 p.m. EST, Saturday, Sept. 2

Where: M.M. Roberts Stadium (36,000) in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

TV: Dave Ryan (play-by-play), Corey Chavous (analyst) and Melanie Collins (sideline) will have the call on the CBS Sports Network.

Radio: Tom Leach (play-by-play), Jeff Piecoro (analyst) and Dick Gabriel (sideline) will have the UK radio network call on 630 AM and 98.1 FM in Lexington, as well as 840 AM in Louisville.

Series: UK leads 2-1.

Last meeting: Southern Miss 44, UK 35 (2016)

Weather: 87° with a slight chance of thunderstorms. Click here for more details & forecast.

Kentucky Wildcats

  • The Cats are looking to avenge their loss against Southern Miss in Week 1 of the 2016-17 season. They lead the all-time series 2-1
  • This series has been extremely high-scoring. UK won their first meeting 71-7 in 1949, and beat Southern Miss again in 1986, 32-0. USM got its first win in the series last year, winning 44-35 after scoring 34 unanswered points.
  • UK is looking for its 600th win in program history
  • UK is 21-3 against current C-USA teams
  • Austin MacGinnis will be looking to stay on track to become the leading scorer in UK history. The senior kicker is just 48 points behind Lones Seiber, Kentucky’s all-time points leader
  • There are plenty of Wildcats who have gotten media and coaches attention leading up to this game. Six Cats (Denzil Ware, Jordan Jones, Mike Edwards, Austin MacGinnis, Benny Snell and C.J. Conrad) received preseason All-SEC honors.
  • Edwards, Garrett Johnson, Snell, Stephen Johnson, Courtney Love, Conrad and MacGinnis are all on preseason award watch lists for their respective positions.
  • Kentucky is looking for another successful running season with mobile quarterback Stephen Johnson and breakout star running back Benny Snell. The team’s 3,044 yards last year were the second-most in program history. They also tied the school record for rushing touchdowns in a season with 30. Snell set the record for rushing yards by a freshman (1,057) and total touchdowns by a freshman (13).

Southern Miss

  • USM is coming off a 7-6 season including a win over Kentucky
  • USM’s win over UK snapped a 13-game losing streak against the SEC
  • Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson is Kentucky’s former offensive coordinator. This is his second season with the Golden Eagles.
  • USM has to replace Nick Mullens, a four-year starter at quarterback who threw for 11,994 yards and 87 touchdowns in his career, both of which are school records. Kwadra Griggs and Keon Howard are the candidates to replace him.
  • Running back Ito Smith is the only returning back in the nation to have over 3,000 career rushing yards and 1,000 career passing yards.
  • Southern Miss has four players on preseason award watch lists: Running back Ito Smith, kicker Parker Shaunfield, tight end Julian Allen and wide receiver Allenzae Staggers.

Kentucky vs. Southern Miss All-Time

Historically, UK vs. USM has looked something like James Harden trying to play defense.

  • Kentucky 71-7 Southern Miss, Sept. 17, 1949.
  • Kentucky 32-0 Southern Miss, Oct. 4, 1986.
  • Kentucky 35-44 Southern Miss, Sept. 3, 2016.