Week 9: Mississippi State at Kentucky

    Mississippi State (6-0) at Kentucky (5-2) Oct. 25, 3:30, CBS Here’s The Deal: If someone had told you before the season that Mississippi State vs.

    October 24, 2014

    Mississippi State (6-0) at Kentucky (5-2) Oct. 25, 3:30, CBS 

    Here’s The Deal: If someone had told you before the season that Mississippi State vs. Kentucky would be the featured CBS game of the week, you’d assume something went really, really wrong with the 2014 SEC season. This would normally be a battle between two of the SEC division cellar-dwellers, but the world is quickly changing with the No. 1 Bulldogs looking to flex a little muscle before dealing with Arkansas, and with road games at Alabama and Ole Miss still to go. It’s not like MSU needed the week off after beating Auburn, but it got it, and now it’s looking for its fifth straight win in the series over a vastly improved Kentucky team, even if last week it didn’t look like things had changed much. 

    At 5-2, this has been a phenomenal season so far for UK head coach Mark Stoops. With a win over South Carolina, and a three-overtime loss at Florida, everything appeared to be on the upswing, and then came the crashing thud. LSU rose up and drilled the Cats 41-3 last weekend in one of the weirder blowouts of the season – it wasn’t even remotely competitive. It’s not going to be easy for UK to get that bowl-eligible sixth win with three of the final four games on the road at Missouri, Tennessee and Louisville, along with a home date against Georgia, but to shock the No. 1 team in America would be a special moment. It would be a program-changer for Stoops. 

    Why Mississippi State Might Win: So what did LSU do last week that was so great? How did the Tigers destroy a solid UK team so thoroughly? The running game lined up and blasted away, with Terrance Magee leading the way with a huge day, and QB Anthony Jennings taking off for 40 yards on seven carries. MSU will use the same formula, only better. The Bulldog line isn’t as good as LSU’s, and the backfield isn’t as deep, but Dak Prescott and Josh Robinson should be able to barrel their way to tough yards without much of a problem. The Wildcat run defense has been solid for most of the season, but it’s about to get hammered on as MSU controls the clock and tempo from the start. 

    Why Kentucky Might Win: The big key to dealing with Mississippi State is to not dig the hole in the first place to get out of, and not coming up with the mistakes to turn the game into a Bulldog run. UK can do that – and it can throw its way out of a jam. Patrick Towles, gear up that passing game. Mississippi State has been bombed on mostly because teams are trying to catch up, but the secondary is the Achilles’ heel allowing 200 yards or more a game. The saving grace has been the ability to take the ball away with at least one pick in every game and 11 on the year, but Kentucky has been outstanding when it comes to turnover margin winning every battle but Florida, going -2, with 17 takeaways on the season and just five interceptions – three against the Gators. 

    Who To Watch Out For: Dak Prescott might be front-and-center in the Heisman race, but it’s Josh Robinson who leads Mississippi State in rushing. The 5-9, 215-pound power back is averaging over seven yards a pop with four 100-yard games including a 197-yard day against LSU. After running for just 459 yards last year – carrying it four times for 19 yards against Kentucky – the junior is up to 689 yards and eight scores with two touchdowns in three of his last four games. UK has to slow down Prescott first, but it’s Robinson who’s gashing everyone. 

    What’s Going To Happen: Expect a huge bounceback performance from Kentucky. There isn’t enough on the defensive front to stop the rested Mississippi State running game, but the offense will be far sharper than it was last week against LSU with Towles coming up with a much bigger and better performance. The Bulldogs will know they’ve been in a fight, but they’ll also pull away in the second half. 

    Prediction: Mississippi State 38 … Kentucky 24 
    Line: Mississippi State -13.5 o/u: 59 
    Must Watch Factor: 5: Dumb and Dumber To – 1: Manhattan Love Story … 3 

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