The Kentucky Wildcats are coming off a much-needed bye week after a very physical loss to Georgia.
Kentucky went into the by week with their best start since 1950 and gunning for the best finish in the SEC since the 1970s.
On the other side of the bye week is something that they haven’t done since 2008, and something Mark Stoops has never done — beat the Mississippi State Bulldogs in Starkville.
Perhaps that is part of why the opening odds for this matchup actually have the Bulldogs favored by one point, according to DraftKings. Though Kentucky is 3-2 vs. their cross-division rivals since 2016, the past three trips to Starkville have resulted in utter disaster for the football Wildcats.
In 2013, Stoops’ first trip to down to Mississippi State, UK lost by less than a touchdown, 28-22. That was Stoops’ worst team since being at Kentucky, and that was a Mississippi State team that finished a respectable 7-6 overall, and was led by Dak Prescott.
Since then, it’s been all Bulldogs down in Davis Wade Stadium. In 2015, just a year removed from a No. 1 ranking, the Bulldogs thrashed Kentucky 42-16.
Two years later in 2017, after a huge win against Missouri at home, Kentucky went down with Stephen Johnson and Benny Snell, only to get absolutely blitzed by the Bulldogs, 45-7.
And most recently in 2019, Kentucky went down with an injured, off a deflating loss to Florida the week prior, and lost 28-13.
Stoops has broken many streaks since being at UK, and beaten almost everyone, but the road win at Mississippi State still looms.
Mississippi State comes into the game with an air-raid attack, led by Will Rogers under center. Rogers has thrown for over 2500 yards along with 18 touchdowns, with a total QBR of 63.9.
On the receiving end, Makai Polk for the Bulldogs is the big threat to watch out for, with 552 yards, 58 catches, and six touchdowns.
Being an air-raid attack, the running game is not the strong suit for the Bulldogs, as their leading rusher has only 207 yards on the ground through seven games. They have just 341 yards on the ground all season.
The Kentucky secondary is in for its biggest challenge to date this season, which can be a challenge for a secondary unit with only three interceptions on the season.
Pass rushing for Kentucky is vital for the Wildcats to walk away with a win. Kentucky has gotten to the QB 14 times this season. Bulldogs QB, Will Rogers, has thrown seven interceptions and the Bulldogs are -3 in the turnover margin on the season.
Against solid rushing attacks, the Bulldogs defense is giving up an average of 178 yards per game. They allowed 162 to Texas A&M and 195 to Alabama, both seen as top-five rushing attacks in the SEC. Chris Rodriguez could be in for a big day after being shut down last week against Georgia.
On the flip side, the Bulldogs defense is giving up 234 yards through the air, with their secondary totaling seven interceptions on the season. Will Levis will need to make smart, accurate throws like he did against Georgia.
Kentucky Wildcats at Mississippi State Bulldogs Game Glance
Start Time: The game will be a 7 pm ET kickoff
TV Channel: SEC Network
Replay: WatchESPN and SEC Network (check local listings).
Odds: The 4-3 Bulldogs opened as 1-point favorites. On ESPN’s matchup predictor, the Bulldogs are the favorite to win the game at 53.5%.
Early Prediction: TeamRankings projects a 28-21 victory for Kentucky.