Skip to main content

Kentucky vs. Mississippi State Football Prediction and Preview

Chris Rodriguez Jr., Kentucky Wildcats Football

Chris Rodriguez Jr. and the well-rested Wildcats head to Starkville to take on the Bulldogs in an intriguing SEC crossover matchup

In the words of Dr. Peter Venkman, "Human sacrifice! Dogs and cats living together! Mass Hysteria!"

Luckily, "Ghostbusters" was just a fictional blockbuster movie because these dogs and cats from the SEC would not like living together. In fact, Kentucky and Mississippi State will show you how much they dislike each other on the gridiron on Saturday.

The Wildcats (6-1, 4-1 SEC) have had two weeks to stew over their demolition at the hands of No. 1 Georgia. You have to figure they are champing at the bit to get back on the field and right their wrongs.

Meanwhile, for Mississippi State (4-3, 2-2), the most impressive thing to come from last week's win at Vanderbilt was Alyssa Lang's postgame interview with Mike Leach where he mentioned all the Halloween candies he loved, including Sprees in a box, gummy bears, and Almond Joys. But it was his mention of European candy being markedly better that drew the attention of one of his (fictional) peers.

THAT's winning, people. Hey coach Leach, got an encore?

No. 12 Kentucky at Mississippi State

Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. ET
TV: SEC Network
Spread: Kentucky -1

When Kentucky Has the Ball

When facing a team like Mississippi State this weekend with their precision offense, controlling the time of possession and implementing your will on that Bulldog defense will be of utmost importance. As has been the case most of the season, look for that human wrecking ball known as Chris Rodriguez Jr. to continue to pound opposing defenses. He only earned seven carries for seven yards against Georgia, so he will have a desire to get back on track on Saturday. But that MSU defense is 11th nationally against the run, holding opponents to 93 yards per game.

The Will Levis-to-Wan'Dale Robinson connection has become a real revelation for the Wildcat pigskinners this year, hooking up 49 times. But while Levis went 32-for-42 against the No. 1-ranked Bulldogs, his longest throw was just 16 yards. If the running game can get back to effectiveness, look for head coach Mark Stoops and offensive coordinator Liam Coen to try to stretch the defense more this week through the air. You know, the old running game sets up the passing game.

Speaking of the passing game, while the stars of the Big Blue have played well  Levis, Rodriguez, and Robinson  it could really help the 'Cats down the stretch to get some more skill players involved in the offense. Beyond Robinson, the next most-targeted receiver is Josh Ali with 17 catches and Isaiah Epps and Justin Rigg with just 10 each. No other Wildcat receivers have over 100 yards or more than seven receptions on the year. It was good to see Rigg get four catches, including one for a touchdown, against Georgia. Also, sophomore wideout Izayah Cummings had three grabs versus the Bulldogs. In addition, Ali has missed a few games but should be available for this Saturday and that will help a ton.

When Mississippi State Has the Ball

It looks like State is finally starting to figure things out offensively. Sophomore quarterback Will Rogers is taking control and he has done an exemplary job of distributing the ball. In the 45-6 rout of Vanderbilt last Saturday, 13 different Bulldogs recorded at least one catch. Rogers is far and away the nation's leader in completions with 292 through seven games, meanwhile also hitting on a very impressive 74 percent of his throws, good for fourth in the FBS. Now, can that kind of diversity and accuracy be maintained against this stout Kentucky defense, which ranks third in the conference in scoring defense? This will be a great showdown.

And get this; State also is doing a better job of running the ball. Yes, I wrote "running" about this Bulldog team. In the win over Vanderbilt, six of their 29 first downs came via the ground game. In fact, there were two or three other running first downs that were called back by penalty. They ran the ball 22 times, gaining 87 yards (26 yards were lost on sacks). Dillon Johnson (7 att., 34 yds.) and Jo'quavious Marks (8, 33), both averaged better than four yards per carry. They also combined for nine catches for 70 yards on mostly short shuffle passes, which are glorified running plays. That kind of effectiveness will help keep MSU ahead of the sticks and keep drives going.

Final Analysis

Let's face it, nothing gives an SEC team more confidence than playing Vanderbilt. And at the same time, there is no bigger and colder slap of reality than moving on to play any one of the other 13 squads. That's where we are at with Mississippi State. I mean, give 'em an atta-boy for bouncing back from that horrifically humbling 49-9 loss to Alabama. The domination of Vanderbilt was just the tonic this program needed.

However, now you've gotta go out there and take on a legit team again. Barring a call to the Ghostbusters, State will be the team that gets slimed here. Kentucky will be the ones echoing Bill Murray, "We came. We saw. We kicked its arse!"

Prediction: Kentucky 31, Mississippi State 27

Podcast: Week 9 Preview, Predictions + Picks Against the Spread & Texas Tech Coaching Search

— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.