Kentucky’s brutal loss to the Florida Gators last Saturday was tough to stomach, but there’s no time to sulk with the SEC grind just getting started.
Now standing at 2-1 without their starting quarterback for the rest of the season, Kentucky will travel to Mississippi State for their first road test of the 2019 season.
Kentucky’s backup quarterback Sawyer Smith found a rhythm early against Florida, putting his team up 14-7 at halftime before their second-half collapse. Smith’s second half woes were most likely due to Kentucky going away from an up-tempo offense and instead to a more conservative style of play.
Smith finished the game with 267 yards and two scores on 23/35 passing while tossing three picks, one of which was a last-second hail mary attempt. All things considered, he played well in his first SEC start, but he’ll need to play better for Kentucky to win in Starkville for the first time since 2008.
Adding insult to injury, starting defensive lineman Calvin Taylor Jr. was ejected in the second half for targeting, which means he’ll miss the first half of this week’s game. Taylor is enjoying a breakout senior season, racking up eight tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack.
According to Pro Football Focus, Taylor has 13 QB pressure through three games, which is tied for the third-most in the country among interior defensive lineman:
Most total pressures through 3 weeks, FBS interior defenders:— Cam Mellor (@PFF_Cam) September 18, 2019
Marvin Wilson, FSU - 16
McTelvin Agim, Arkansas - 14
Aaron Faumui, Virginia - 13
Calvin Taylor Jr., Kentucky - 13
Jeremy Meiser, ODU - 12
Needless to say, losing him for even a half is going to be a big hit to this Kentucky defense, which is set to face one one of the nation’s top running backs in Kylin Hill, who has 431 yards and two scores on 65 carries, good for a 6.6 ypc average.
According to Pregame.com, Kentucky is a current six-point underdog despite 92% of the current cash being on the Wildcats.
If Kentucky has any chance of reaching a 3-1 start to the season, they’ll need to utilize a few tricks against an explosive Mississippi State offense.
Now, here is a look at some key stats and national rankings to know for both teams, courtesy of TeamRankings:
Kentucky Wildcats (Via OddsShark)
- Kentucky are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games.
- The total has gone OVER in 6 of Kentucky’s last 6 games.
- Kentucky are 5-1 SU in their last 6 games.
- Kentucky are 4-8 ATS in their last 12 games against Mississippi State.
- Kentucky are 2-8 SU in their last 10 games against Mississippi State.
- The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Kentucky’s last 5 games on the road.
- The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Kentucky’s last 5 games when playing on the road against Mississippi State.
- Kentucky are 2-4 ATS in their last 6 games against an opponent in the Southeast conference.
- Kentucky are 7-1 SU in their last 8 games played in September.
Mississippi St. Bulldogs (Via OddsShark)
- The total has gone OVER in 5 of Mississippi State’s last 6 games.
- Mississippi State are 6-3 SU in their last 9 games.
- The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Mississippi State’s last 7 games against Kentucky.
- Mississippi State are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games at home.
- The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Mississippi State’s last 5 games when playing at home against Kentucky.
- The total has gone UNDER in 9 of Mississippi State’s last 10 games against an opponent in the Southeast conference.
- Mississippi State are 7-2 SU in their last 9 games played in week 4.
- Mississippi State are 5-2 SU in their last 7 games played on a Saturday.
ESPN’s Football Power Index gives Kentucky just a 33.9% chance to pull off the upset.
TeamRankings projects a 26-21 win for the Bulldogs, while numberFire went with a 27-21 win for the home team.
OddsShark is going with a 33-22 win for Mississippi State.
Pete Fiutak of College Football News is predicting a 27-23 win by the Bulldogs.
Eric Sorenson of Athlon Sports envisions the same result, right down to the score.
Winners and Whiners picked Mississippi State to cover the six-point spread.
Saturdays Down South picked the Wildcats in an upset 26-24 win.
Mark Story of the Lexington Herald-Leader, though, is predicting a 27-23 decision in favor of the Wildcats.
It’s hard to see Kentucky taking a regressed defense (missing two starters for the first half), a backup quarterback and shaky play-calling on the road for the first time this season and winning a game of which they’re a six-point underdog.
While Kentucky will most likely see an early deficit, Sawyer Smith looked like he can really put the football on a string last week against a far more talented Florida Gators secondary. Head coach Mark Stoops and his young Wildcats will make a late effort, but probably fall just short on the road.
Final Score: Mississippi State 24, Kentucky 20