Week 9 Preview: Kentucky vs. (1) Mississippi State

After a critical bye week last Saturday, the No. 1 Mississippi State Bulldogs will be traveling to Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington to take on the Kentucky Wildcats.

In both coaches’ press conferences this week, Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops and Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen talked very highly about each other’s programs. It was truly mutual respect for each other and their teams.

Mullen made several indirect comments to Stoop’s in his press conference about ignoring all the hateful fans. Dan commented that it had taken him six years to get MSU to where they are today, and advised Big Blue fans to put faith in coach Stoops moving forward.

Stoops had the same amount of positive commentary for the Bulldogs. He made it clear that their first priority was to respect MSU’s rushing attack. He continued to talk highly about State’s defense and how excited his team was to battle against the No. 1 team in the nation.

Dan Mullen’s message to the team this week was,

“They don’t give out trophies for midterm grades.”

That statement is the best comment you can make to a team who is new at top of the totem pole. They also need to keep their minds right due to the fact that the Bulldogs are facing an extremely hungry Kentucky squad.

Kentucky heads into this contest with a 5-2 record, and is looking to make a statement in the SEC with a huge victory. This matchup is also Kentucky’s homecoming game so the fans will be as rowdy as ever. CBS broadcasters Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson will be calling the game, which will certainly fire up Big Blue Nation to be loud and proud on a national stage.

Luckily for the bulldogs, wide receiver Jameon Lewis will be returning after missing the last two games with an injury to his foot. Lewis is the Bulldogs’ go-to target for any type of screen or trick play, which will open up the offense even more. Gabe Myles, who replaced Lewis for the past two games, has earned a lot of playing time and becomes a big-time receiver off the bench.

As always, Dak Prescott has to play lights out. If you make mistakes, Kentucky will turn those opportunities into points. South Carolina found out the hard way, throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown which sealed the win for the Wildcats.

Secondly, running back Josh Robinson has to control the ground. During the last three games, Robinson has been an absolute monster. He ranks second in the SEC in rushing yards and yards per carry. Prescott cannot be successful unless the opposing defense is respecting Robinson’s running game.

Lastly, as an offensive whole, State has to respect Kentucky defensive end Bud Dupree. He is one of the most explosive players in the country on the defensive side of the ball.

The Bulldogs’ defense has to find a way to make big plays. Last year,  Kendrick Market made a shoestring tackle to prevent the Cats from taking State down in Starkville last season. This year is no different. Kentucky always plays MSU extremely well and will likely keep it close.

Mississippi State’s defensive line is going to have to go after quarterback Patrick Towles. He is a great passer and an underestimated runner who can make huge plays with his feet. The best advantage for  State is that he is young, and it doesn’t take much to rattle him. If they can stay after Towles, he will likely make some mistakes during the game.

Another component the defensive has to realize is how dominant Kentucky is in the spread. Jojo Kemp is a force when he is taking snaps in the backfield. Mississippi State will have to contain Kemp and neutralize his abilities.

Lastly, the Bulldogs will have to avoid getting beat on the long ball. “Patty Ice” , as ESPN calls him, has a cannon for an arm. I personally thought State did an excellent job defending the deep pass against Auburn. Neither Sammie Coates nor Duke Williams beat MSU on a long pass.

Overall, I think this game will be exciting and enjoyable to watch. It will be huge test for Kentucky and will be beneficial to gain some experience playing against a dominant team.

You can catch the broadcast on CBS this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

 

*Section Photo credit to Andy Lyons, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Fansided.com.