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Mississippi State (3-4) at Kentucky (3-4)



The Sports Network

DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 29th, 7:00 p.m. (et)

FACTS & STATS: Site: Commonwealth Stadium (65,000) -- Lexington, Kentucky. Television: FSN. Home Record: Mississippi St. 1-2, Kentucky 2-2. Away Record: Mississippi St. 2-2, Kentucky 0-2. Neutral Record: Mississippi St. 0-0, Kentucky 1-0. Conference Record: Mississippi St. 0-4, Kentucky 0-3. Series Record: Kentucky leads, 21-17.

GAME NOTES: SEC foes will clash in Lexington this weekend, as the Kentucky Wildcats play host to the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

Losses in two of the last three outings have dropped Mississippi State to 3-4 overall, and the team owns a bitterly disappointing 0-4 record versus SEC competition. The Bulldogs have been idle since October 15 when they suffered a heart-breaking 14-12 loss to South Carolina in front of the home crowd. The only wins to date have come over Memphis, Louisiana Tech and UAB, three inferior non-league foes.

As for Kentucky, it carried a four-game losing streak into last weekend's matchup with Jacksonville State. Sure, the Wildcats were able to cruise to a 38-14 victory in that affair against an FCS opponent, but they are still 0-3 in SEC play and have been outscored 137-20 in those three league games.

Kentucky owns a 21-17 series lead over Mississippi State, but the Bulldogs have won three of the last four meetings.

The Mississippi State offense drove 69 yards in 10 plays in the first quarter of the South Carolina game, and that drive culminated with a 19-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Russell to Chris Smith. Unfortunately, that play marked the only time the Bulldogs would reach the end zone all day. They finished with only 296 total yards, and Russell threw a pair of costly interceptions. He completed just 11-of-29 passes for 165 yards and was sacked twice. Vick Ballard carried the ball 20 times for a modest total of 67 yards in defeat.

Ballard has run for 598 yards and five touchdowns this season, and considering the fact that he is averaging 5.7 yards per attempt, the big tailback should get the ball 20 times every game. Russell has been mediocre at best under center, and the same can be said for Chris Relf, the man he replaced as the starting QB. There are some talented receivers in the fold, but they don't get many opportunities to make plays because of the shaky play under center.

While the team's offense struggled, the MSU defense certainly played well enough to win versus South Carolina. The Gamecocks were limited to 289 total yards, and the Bulldogs permitted a mere 2.6 yards per rushing attempt as well as 8.1 yards per pass completion. Two interceptions were notched by the defense as well, and the unit limited USC to 3-of-15 success on third-down conversion attempts.

The Bulldogs are only yielding 19.3 ppg and 340.4 total ypg, so the strong defensive showing against the Gamecocks certainly wasn't a fluke. Fifteen takeaways have been notched to date, including 11 interceptions, and 14 sacks have been posted as well. Johnathan Banks has five INTs to his credit, while Nockoe Whitley has picked off four passes.

That MSU defensive unit is set to face a Kentucky offense that has struggled mightily to move the ball and score points this season. The Wildcats are only averaging 16.6 ppg and 259.9 total ypg, numbers that simply must improve for the team to have any chance of winning an SEC game. Morgan Newton has only completed 47.3 percent of his passes with eight TDs and seven INTs, and Maxwell Smith hasn't proven capable of doing any better in his limited time under center. La'Rod King is a stud on the outside, having scored six times on just 27 catches, but he is severely limited by his own team's shaky QB play.

Against the inferior Jacksonville State Gamecocks a week ago, Kentucky churned out 340 yards on the ground and finished with 445 yards of total offense. CoShik Williams racked up a career-high 148 yards on 22 carries, and Newton threw a pair of TD passes without an INT.

Opponents are scoring 27.3 ppg against Kentucky, which is surrendering 388.7 total ypg. The Wildcats have struggled mightily against the run, yielding 5.0 ypc, and the pass defense has been poor as well, allowing opposing signal callers to average 12.6 yards per completion.

Kentucky only permitted 270 total yards to Jacksonville State and held the Gamecocks to 2-of-11 success on third-down conversion attempts. Three takeaways were notched in the tilt by the 'Cats as well.

The loser of this game figures to have little chance of reaching a bowl game, and even the winner figures to be fighting an uphill battle in major college football's elite conference. While Kentucky has the obvious advantage of playing at home, the Bulldogs are the better of the two teams and will earn the victory.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Mississippi State 24, Kentucky 14

10/26 10:44:48 ET

Lexington, KY local and state news by the Lexington Herald-Leader | Kentucky.com
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