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Kentucky Football

Kentucky looks for first win of 2020 against Mike Leach and Mississippi State

October 9, 2020
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The Kentucky Wildcats (0-2) are in must-win territory as after dropping games to Auburn and Ole Miss to the open the season, the Cats are winless and face daunting tasks the next two weekends. 

To avoid an 0-3 start and a possible lost season, UK will look to find their first win Saturday when they take on their former offensive coordinator Mike Leach and his Mississippi State Bulldogs (1-1). 

The Bulldogs are 1-1 so far this season after they shocked the nation by taking down the defending champion LSU Tigers in Death Valley to open the season but then found themselves on the losing end of a dramatic upset last week as the Arkansas Razorbacks ended their 20-game SEC losing streak in Starkville.

Both teams’ need a victory Saturday to avoid a potentially lost season making it one of the most important games on the SEC Slate for Week 3. 
 

Matchup History

The Wildcats and Bulldogs have faced off every season since 1990 as they are each other’s permanent cross-divisional opponent. Mississippi State holds a slight edge in the all-time series as with a 28-13 win over the Cats in Starkville last season, the Bulldogs took a 24-23 series lead. However, UK has not lost to the Bulldogs in Lexington since 2014 when Mississippi State was ranked as the No. 1 team in the country behind quarterback Dak Prescott.  

Mississippi State Breakdown

In their first two-games under Mike Leach and his Air-Raid offense, the Bulldogs have had one monster performance and one not-so-pretty one. In their 44-34 win over LSU Week 1, quarterback K.J. Costello broke the SEC Single Game record by throwing for 623 yards while adding five touchdowns. In all, the Bulldogs generated 632 yards of total offense. 

A week later, however, Costello threw for 313 yards with just one score and two interceptions at home against Arkansas. The Bulldogs did generate 400 yards of total offense against the Razorbacks but only scored 14 points in a losing effort. Thus, it’s hard to tell which Mississippi State offense will come to Lexington Saturday, but one thing is for sure: they’re going to throw the ball nearly every play.  

Defensively, Mississippi State has been among the best in the nation at stopping the run as they’re allowing just 1.91 yards per carry through two games this season, which ranks best in the SEC and second-best only behind Houston in the entire nation. They have struggled against the pass, however, as they rank 53rd in the county with 278.5 passing yards allowed per game. 

Kentucky Breakdown 

Many of Kentucky’s problems that have led to an 0-2 start this season have been on the defensive side of the ball.

The Cats have struggled to apply pressure on the quarterback as they have made just three sacks through two games this season. They also have not created a single turnover and have struggled to slow down the pass as they’ve allowed an average of 276.5 yards through the air, which ranks 52nd in the nation.

Offensively, however, UK has had great success as they outgained Auburn Week 1 and in Week 2 ran for 408 yards against Ole Miss with Terry Wilson, Chris Rodriguez, and A.J. Rose all rushing for over 100. They will be without running back Kavosiey Smoke for the next few weeks due to a rib injury, but with Rodriguez and Rose healthy and Travis Tisdale and JuTahn McClain behind them, they should have plenty of depth to continue rushing the ball with success. 

Prediction

As mentioned, Saturday’s game is a must-win for the Wildcats. Their next two contests will be against Tennessee in Knoxville and a home game against Georgia,  both of whom are 2-0 and have Kentucky’s number in recent seasons. With rain expected, the Bulldogs may be unable to throw the ball with as much success as they were hoping, but their stingy run defense should keep them in the game. Thus, it will come down to the less disciplined team and with UK in must-win mode, they should be able to do just enough to get their first victory of 2020. 

Kentucky 24, Mississippi State, 21 

 

 

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Kentucky looks for first win of 2020 against Mike Leach and Mississippi State

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