The Kentucky Wildcats are 3-0 and on the edge of being ranked, but in order to do that, they are going to have to beat a very good Mississippi State football team on Saturday Night.
Kentucky is currently a 10-point underdog at home to the No. 14 team in the nation. The Bulldogs come in with a top-10 offense, as well as a Heisman contender in Nick Fitzgerald.
The Cats and Benny Snell aren’t looking to go down easy, though. If Kentucky is going to upset the Bulldogs, here are the five things they need to do:
1. Rush for over 225 yards.
Benny Snell has proven to the nation that he is really good, but come Saturday, he’s going to have to back that up. Mississippi State has a very explosive offense, and if they have the ball a lot, you are going to be in trouble.
Kentucky has a very good offensive line, and with a good offensive line means you can control the clock. Against this fast, explosive team in Mississippi State, clock management will be huge.
How do you control the clock? You run, run and run the ball some more. If Benny can grab 100-150 yards and Sihiem King, Terry Wilson and AJ Rose together grab another 75-125, I could see the Cats upsetting the Dogs on Saturday. Benny has rushed for over 350 yards through the first three, and personally, I don’t expect the star back to let up this weekend.
2. Limit Turnovers
In the past three games, Terry Wilson has not been bad at all, but he has had some bad turnovers under his belt. Wilson has completed over 69 percent of his passes this season, and he has thrown for over 390 yards on the season.
The only problem is, he has thrown three interceptions and only two touchdowns. Luckily, most of Wilson’s fumbles and interceptions haven’t really been in key situations, but this is not the week you would want to have one of the mistakes.
Nick Fitzgerald and that loaded offense will take advantage of any chance they can get. Terry is very fast and athletic, but none of that matters if he can’t make good decisions with the balls and keep turnovers from happening.
3. Win the trenches
Like I’ve said previously in the article, Nick Fitzgerald is really good, but Mississippi State also has a bunch of tough men playing on the line of scrimmage. Kylin Hill looks to be one of the best backs Kentucky has played this season as well.
Mississippi State is very big up front as they average over 320 pounds across the offensive line. That is SEC big if I have ever seen SEC big. But, the only thing with being big is, you are left vulnerable to speed.
The Cats have all kinds of speed coming off the edge in Allen and Jordan Jones coming on the blitz. The UK defense has done a great job this season pressuring the offense, but if they are going to upset the Bulldogs tonight at Kroger Field, they are going to have to be quick, fast and strong on the defensive line to get the upper hand.
4. Convert on 3rd downs
Kentucky is top-20 in the country in third-down percentage with a 58-percent conversion rate. Kentucky does one thing really good, and that is running the ball. The only problem with running the ball is, sometimes you will end up with 3rd and 3 or 3rd and 4+.
In order to take over a football game, you have to be able to convert those 3rd and short/mediums. Kentucky is really good on 3rd down, but Mississippi State has a top-10 defense, and I don’t expect many easy plays for the Cats on third down this weekend.
The question is, do you use Benny to get three yards or do you throw a short pass to CJ Conrad? I think that’s going to be a very important question for Eddie Gran tonight.
5. Win the field position battle
Kentucky is once again Punter U. The Aussie punter, Max Duffy, has shown he is here and he is here to stay. Duffy is averaging right at 46.0 yards-per-punt, and that number looks to continue to climb. Duffy has had 4 of his 9 punts for over 50 yards this season, and he is a true weapon for Kentucky on the 50-yard line and in.
Duffy is very good at getting backspin on the ball and letting the UK special teams get down and cover the ball inside the 10-yard line. Duffy has been able to get 50 percent of his punts to stop inside the 20-yard line, and if Kentucky has a chance at beating the Bulldogs, he will have to do just that. Field position is huge, and I think it will be huge again in this battle with Mississippi State.
Kentucky has played very well thus far into the season, but honestly, they will have their hands full against the Bulldogs in tonight’s game. The Bulldogs have several good players in Fitzgerald, Hill and Guidry, but Kentucky has Wilson, Snell and Conrad.
I think Kentucky gets off to a very fast start and gets Benny’s wheels going very quickly. I believe Benny finishes with at least 130 yards on the ground, and Wilson runs for over 100 yards and throws for over 175. Fitzgerald gets going, but it comes too late for the Bulldogs. I think Fitzgerald throws for over 250 and runs for 75 or more, but I think the UK defense steps up and stops Kylin Hill.
Kentucky 38, Mississippi State 31