coleryan Posts:14516 Followers:21
On 10/20/2013 11:06 AM in NCAA Football

Kentucky Wildcats at Mississippi State Bulldogs: Preview and Pick

Kentucky Wildcats at Mississippi State Bulldogs: Preview and Pick

The Kentucky Wildcats and the Mississippi State Bulldogs will take center stage this week as they are highlighted on the Thursday night college football game on ESPN this week. Although they are not two of the best teams to watch in the SEC they should still put on a good show for this prime time event.

Kentucky Wildcats at Mississippi State Bulldogs Odds
The college football odds for this game will be interesting to watch as this line will be heavily bet leading up to kick off since it will be on national television. The one thing to watch here will be how the Wildcats offense can adjust and if they will make a change at the helm.

When Neal Brown was hired last winter to run Kentucky’s offense under Mark Stoops, people rejoiced. Brown would bring the beloved Air Raid back to the bluegrass. Passing yards and sirens were bound to follow. It hasn’t exactly turned out that way. Kentucky’s offense has struggled to move the ball, especially in the passing game. Football is a team sport and everyone carries some responsibility but the quarterback position in particular has hindered the Wildcat offense. Jalen Whitlow seemed to possibly put it together against South Carolina but was promptly injured in the first quarter against Alabama.

Neal Brown now has a decision to make. Depending on the health of Whitlow’s ankle, Maxwell Smith will likely start the game against Mississippi State in Starkville. His backup will be either Reese Phillips or more likely Patrick Towles. If Whitlow is expected to miss multiple games, it may be in Kentucky’s best interest to pull the redshirt off of a guy like Towles and hand him the keys for a few games. This is a tough call to make but it could give the Wildcats an edge against Mississippi State.

The college football betting trends for this game reveal that both teams have some positive betting angles. The Wildcats are 7-1 against the spread (ATS) in their last 8 games after allowing more than 200 yards rushing in their previous game, 6-2 ATS in their last 8 games after accumulating less than 100 yards rushing in their previous game and 5-2 ATS in their last 7 meetings in Mississippi State. The Bulldogs are 5-2 ATS when playing a team with a losing record and 11-5 ATS in their last 16 home games.

Kentucky Wildcats at Mississippi State Bulldogs Pick

With plenty of time before kickoff we will wait for more information to come in before we select a side on this contest. Make sure to check back on the day of the game to see who we select as our winner for this big game.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 6-4-0
coleryan Posts:14516 Followers:21
10/21/2013 02:23 PM

University of Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops had good news about quarterback Jalen Whitlow on Monday: the sophomore starter, who sprained his left ankle in a loss to Alabama on Oct. 12, returned to practice Sunday.

Stoops initially feared Whitlow would miss at least one game — and he might still— but the Wildcats’ open date last weekend apparently helped him heal faster than expected.

“Jalen is improved,” Stoops said. “Practiced yesterday. He’ll practice today. We’ll see how that goes.”

Fellow sophomore Max Smith, who has battled an injury to his throwing shoulder, took most of the first-team reps Sunday, Stoops said, but Whitlow “was out there working … and we’ll see how it plays out here today and tomorrow.”

The coaching staff was facing a tough decision — whether to burn the redshirt of true freshman Reese Phillips or sophomore Patrick Towles — if Whitlow wasn’t available at all for Thursday night’s game at Mississippi State.

Now Stoops said the Cats are “working on a few guys” as backup options, “but it looks like Jalen or Max will be able to go.”

Whitlow has started four games this season and 11 in his career. He has completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 499 yards, three touchdowns and an interception this fall; he’s also rushed for 238 yards and three touchdowns.

Offensive coordinator Neal Brown said last week, while Whitlow was sitting out of practice, “The sooner he can get back, the better.”

Smith has started two games this season and nine in his career. He has completed 55.4 percent of his passes for 710 yards, five touchdowns and one interception this season. But Brown admitted Smith’s velocity has suffered as a result of the nagging shoulder issues, and he doesn’t provide a dual threat like Whitlow.

“He’s one of our better players and he adds a dimension to our offense that we need,” Brown said of Whitlow, “because he makes teams defend us a totally different way that gives us an opportunity for our young receiving corps to get open in one-on-one situations.”

  • Last 7 Days Record: 6-4-0
coleryan Posts:14516 Followers:21
10/22/2013 02:02 PM

With Kentucky’s eyes on Thursday night verses Mississippi State there are a few keys to the game that I see if Kentucky wants to pull out a win in Starkville. At 3-2 the offense of Mississippi State is more of an option type with speedy quarterback Dak Prescott and the helm. Prescott has been pretty efficient this year as he leads the Bulldogs in passing and in rushing. Keeping him contained will be huge for the Wildcats if they are going to win this game.

For the Wildcats the keys to the game are going to be sticking to the fundamentals on both sides of the ball. What that means for the offense is keep the Bulldogs defense guessing with run plays to open up our passing game for Maxwell Smith or Patrick Towles whoever is chosen to quarterback this team. TRaymond Sanders is someone that I chose to be a key player for this matchup, if he gets it going early that will surely open up the air raid passing attack to our play-making wide receivers in Blue and Timmons.

On defense the Cats fundamentals and mental toughness will be severely tested as Prescott will stretch the field with his arm and especially his legs. The Cats will have to stay on their toes and make sure to cover their lanes because if not this game could get ugly very quickly. Discipline is something that Wildcats Defensive Coordinator DJ Eliot preaches about every week and the veterans on this defensive side of the ball will have to step up in order to take some of the pressure off of our younger guys. These younger guys have surely stepped up this year and have matured very quickly with the incredible talent they have faced but these last few games are going to be the most important ones for the Wildcats as a team going forward.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 6-4-0
coleryan Posts:14516 Followers:21
10/22/2013 02:02 PM

Jump back to August. Tell anyone on Mississippi State that before Halloween it would lose its starting safety and left guard for the year. It'd transform its offense into a two-quarterback scheme. Dillon Day's consecutive start streak would be snapped — due to suspension.

Don't forget about the talk of an NCAA investigation circulating around Ole Miss' recruitment of freshman Chris Jones. And then the Yahoo Sports report claiming former players received impermissible benefits from an agent.

All the while back on the field LaDarius Perkins would have just one touchdown.

"You're crazy man. I would've been like, 'What?' " defensive lineman P.J. Jones said. "But hey, that's football. Things happen. Things come up."

For the most part, Mississippi State dealt with those things completing the first half of the season with a 3-3 record.

All three losses came against BCS conference teams — Oklahoma State, Auburn and LSU. The three wins came against Alcorn State, Troy and Bowling Green. The Bulldogs' first six opponents are 29-10, while their final six opponents are 23-14.

"You never know when you come into a season," MSU coach Dan Mullen said. "…You might not have thought like the first half of our schedule is actually opponent record wise is tougher than the second half of our schedule. Nobody would have guessed that."

The turbulent first half also presented MSU with opportunities. When Tyler Russell missed a month with a concussion, backup quarterback Dak Prescott filled the void. The sophomore updated the MSU record books with a 200-yard passing, 100-yard rushing performance against Auburn. He rushed, threw and caught a touchdown against Troy. He leads MSU in rushing and touchdowns.

"Fortunately within our program we try to prepare a lot of guys to go. We recruit guys to come play. A lot of guys have gotten opportunities that maybe weren't thinking they were going to get opportunities and taken advantage of them and done a great job."

Freshmen De'Runnya Wilson and Ashton Shumpert both carried questions marks heading into the season. Wilson envisioned a redshirt with a spot on the basketball roster. Shumpert displayed the skills needed to play running back, but stood fifth on the depth chart.

Wilson has seven catches for 134 yards and a touchdown. Shumpert boasts 128 yards rushing with two touchdowns. He also sprung Prescott loose twice last week with key blocks.

Last week, MSU announced linebacker Ferlando Bohanna is out for the season and possibly his career with a concussion. Again someone will have fill that hole. For an inexperienced team, the Bulldogs became veterans at dealing with adversity through six games.

"There are some guys who haven't stepped up as much as they need to. But I think they learned that and had an opportunity and taken advantage of that opportunity. Maybe right at that moment they didn't, but they made sure they got themselves ready to go in the future."

  • Last 7 Days Record: 6-4-0
coleryan Posts:14516 Followers:21
10/23/2013 02:26 PM

Mississippi State, with its pedestrian 3-3 overall record, 0-2 in the Southeastern Conference, looks like a more manageable opponent for the University of Kentucky football team than the last four, all Top 25 teams. These Bulldogs don’t seem to have as much bite.

But the Wildcats (1-5, 0-3) must beware, especially on defense. Mississippi State has a few wrinkles worth worrying about. At least one will be familiar: a two-quarterback system featuring one strong passer and one dangerous runner. Kentucky also has one of those, and coach Mark Stoops announced Tuesday that Max Smith, the passer, will start Thursday night’s game in Starkville.

Dual threat Jalen Whitlow, who sprained his left ankle in the Cats’ last game against Alabama, will “be ready to go,” Stoops said and, “We’ll use him if we need to.” The Bulldogs’ rotation is also, at least in part, due to injury.

Sophomore Dak Prescott, a 6-foot-2, 230-pound tank, took over when senior Tyler Russell went down with a concussion and has been impressive. He ranks fourth nationally among quarterbacks in rushing with 457 yards — on just 64 carries, good for an average of 7.14 per tote — and rushing touchdowns with eight.

“Their quarterback is very athletic, makes a lot of plays on his feet,” UK defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said. “He makes good decisions, got a strong arm. I think that he makes the thing run. He’s the key to that thing.”

Prescott is eighth in the SEC in rushing among all players, and he has only played in six games, just three as the team’s lone QB. Prescott has accounted for 1,383 yards — 890 passing, 457 rushing, 36 receiving — and 12 total touchdowns, one of which he caught. He was the team’s short-yardage and red-zone QB last season and produced four rushing and four passing touchdowns.

Seeing the elusive Whitlow in practice might help the Cats in preparation for Prescott, who as a senior in high school threw for 2,860 yards, ran for 951 and accounted for 56 total TDs. He appears to be a poor man’s Tim Tebow. But he’s completing just 54.3 percent of his throws this fall and has as many interceptions (three) as touchdowns.

Russell, who missed three games with a concussion but has been back for the last two, is the more polished passer. He’s completed 19 of 25 for 248 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions since his return. Russell is not a runner — 100 career rushing yards on 105 carries — but is MSU’s all-time leader in touchdown passes (39) and ranks fifth in passing yards (4,947).

Both he and Prescott played in the last two games, adding an element of unpredictability. But even when Russell is in the game, MSU wants to run the ball — just more traditionally.

“Any time you've got the quarterback involved in the run and they're physical, it makes you add numbers,” Stoops said, meaning the Cats’ defense would need to crowd the line of scrimmage, perhaps cheat up with a safety. “So we have to be very disciplined with all the different option game they do and all the quarterback run game. Then you've got to get them on the ground.”

That’s not the only headache. Bulldogs coach and former Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen, known to operate an uptempo offense in the past, had been largely slogging through this season until a critical drive in Mississippi State’s last game.

He directed Prescott to hurry it up, leading to a 10-play, 75-yard drive that took 3 minutes and 11 seconds to score the decisive touchdown in a narrow 21-20 escape against Bowling Green. After snapping the ball every 31.1 seconds on 56 plays, the Bulldogs snapped it every 19.1 seconds on that drive.

“That was big for us,” Mullen said afterward. “We might do a little bit more uptempo stuff as we move forward.”

The Cats are ready for that. Again, they’ve seen it often in practice from a UK offense that at least aspires to be an uptempo attack, although that hasn’t manifested often in games. Linebacker Avery Williamson expects MSU to push the pace.

“That’s what Coach has been telling us a lot, so we really got to make sure we’re getting the calls in fast and make sure we’re getting lined up fast,” Williamson said, “and we’ve got to read our keys fast as well, because they’re going to try to gas us. We’ve got to really, really focus in on what we’ve got to do.”

One other worry for Kentucky: The Bulldogs get out of the gates in a hurry at home. They’re 3-1 this season at Davis Wade Stadium, where they’ve outscored opponents 126-48 in the first half.

“They play fast, they start fast,” Eliot said. “They have an option-type offense from the spread look. Sometimes, the speed of the game is hard to adjust to. You’ve got to come out ready to go, knowing that they’re going to have tempo, and we have to be able to adjust.”

The Cats were blitzed early at South Carolina this season but stormed back for a near upset.

“I think Mississippi State will be a lot the same way,” Stoops said. “They want to get off to a fast start and put a dagger in us early. We have to go out and offset that and play and execute very well to start the game. And, again, no matter what happens we have to stay the course and stay poised and be ready for a battle.”

  • Last 7 Days Record: 6-4-0
coleryan Posts:14516 Followers:21
10/23/2013 02:29 PM

At one time, this series could be classified as almost a sure win on the schedule for Kentucky. Kentucky won five of seven games in this series from 2002-2008 and most of the games were very close affairs. Then the Bulldogs made a big hire, luring Florida assistant Dan Mullen, and the Bulldogs have not lost to Kentucky since. Mullen has done a good job at Mississippi State leading the Bulldogs to three straight wins, but he has been unable to finish higher than fourth in the tough SEC West.

The Bulldogs are 3-3 on the season, but are winless in the SEC and are coming off a 21-20 win over Bowling Green. Even though Mullen has brought the Bulldogs to three straight bowls, he is just 13-21 in the SEC and if you throw out the four Kentucky wins, just 9-21. Mullen’s job at Mississippi State is very similar to the job Rich Brooks did at Kentucky as he has the Bulldogs respectable, but unable to take the next step thus far.

Considering that LSU crushed the Bulldogs 59-26 earlier this season, it appears that the Bulldogs are still not going to make that leap to elite this year either. The UK/Mississippi State games are always close and it raise the question whether Kentucky’s big hire in Mark Stoops can turn the tide in the rivalry and win his first SEC game. With that in mind, let’s meet the Bulldogs.

The one big similarity between UK and Mississippi State is the ongoing QB situation. Tyler Russell started the season as the starter but suffered a concussion and missed three games. During that time Dak Prescott emerged and flourished as a dual threat in Mullen’s offense. During the last two games, the QB’s have split time with Russell the “passing QB” and Prescott the “running threat” QB. Sound familiar?

Russell has been a very accurate passer in his two games back since the concussion, connecting on 76% of his passes. For the season, Russell has completed 70.7% of his passes for 381 yards and has 2 TD’s and 1 interception. The platoon seems to actually be helping Russell’s numbers as his previous best season was 58.6% last year. Russell has the better arm in the platoon and Russell has over 5000 yards passing and 39 TDs in his career. Russell is pretty much a pocket passer though and that is where Prescott comes in.

Prescott is completing just 54.3% of his passes for 890 yards and 3 TDs and 3 interceptions. He has a good arm and can connect on the long pass, but is not that accurate. His strength is running the ball. Prescott leads the Bulldogs in rushing with 457 yards and 8 TDs on the ground, including a 75 yard run. Prescott has three 100 yard rushing games under his belt against Bowling Green (139(, LSU (103), and Auburn (133). The fact that he has scorched two ranked SEC teams with his feet has to be concerning for UK.

After Prescott, LaDarius Perkins is the next biggest rushing threat. Perkins averages 5.0 yards a carry and has 273 yards and a touchdown on the year. Against LSU, he churned out 8.1 yards a carry, so he is tough to bring down. Prescott and Perkins are just part of the ground attack that the Bulldogs will bring. Mississippi State has 17 rushing TDs on the year versus 6 passing and seven Bulldogs have found the end zone via the ground route. Josh Robinson and Ashton Shumpert have 142 and 128 yards rushing on the year and three TD’s between them. Sophomore Derrick Milton also has 2 TDs among his 11 carries. Expect a heavy ground game from the Bulldogs as they have run the ball about 60% of the time.

Without a doubt, Jameon Lewis is the biggest receiving threat for the Bulldogs. He has 393 yards receiving and 3 TDs and also has a 36 yard TD pass under his belt. At 5’9, he can get past the coverage and has a 50 yard TD reception as well. Robert Johnson had a decent game against Auburn (84 yards) but has really struggled to get the ball recently and has just 13 receptions for 178 yards. Joe Morrow has great size at 6’4 and seems to have become the #2 target over the last couple of games. He is tied with Johnson with 13 receptions and averages 11.6 a catch. Freshman WR De’Runnya Wilson has big play potential as he had a 59 yard catch versus LSU and he averages 19.1 yards on 7 catches. The Bulldogs don’t employ their tight ends much, but Brandon Hill has 53 yards on 2 catches.

Five star freshman defensive end Chris Jones is already making an impact at Mississippi State. Jones has 14 tackles, including 4 for a loss and a quarterback sack. Jones is also pretty good at putting pressure on the quarterback. Preston Smith makes noise at the other end position with 15 tackles, 2 sacks, and 4 tackles for a loss. Fellow freshman AJ Jefferson has a great nose for the ball. The development of Jones allowed the Bulldogs to move Kaleb Eull’s 290 pounds to the tackle position. All in all, the Bulldogs have a pretty solid rotation up front.

Benardrick McKinney is having another solid season at the MLB position as he leads the Bulldogs in tackles with 36. McKinney has great size (6’5) and a feel for where the football will be. And he is just a sophomore. Deontae Skinner is also very active on the outside with 34 tackles and a a sack and interception. Matt Wells has stepped up from the reserve position last year and is helping to overcome the loss of Cameron Lawrence. While the LB corp misses Lawrence’s meanness, McKinney is emerging as a true leader in the unit.

Senior free safety Nickoe Whitley is the lone returning starter in the defensive backfield and leads the Bulldogs with 3 interceptions on the year. Whitley also has 25 tackles and has blocked a kick. Sophomore Kendrick Market has stepped it up in a starting role with 24 tackles. JUCO player Justin Cox is trying to fill the shoes of Jonathan Banks and has 13 tackles on the year. This unit suffered big losses from last year in Banks and Darius Slay. While they lost the star power, the overall stats have been about the same due to the nice mix of youth and experience. Jamerson Love has 13 tackles and an interception.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 6-4-0
coleryan Posts:14516 Followers:21
10/24/2013 03:15 PM

The cowbells will be jingling and jangling when the Wildcats take the field tonight. Like most SEC teams, the people at Mississippi State make their home field a very difficult place to play for visiting opponents. Luckily, this won't be the first conference road test for the Wildcats.

Kentucky can win this game but it's going not going to be easy. The Bulldogs are a double digit favorite at home but they haven't been overly impressive this season. They have been blown out by LSU and Oklahoma State. They lost to Auburn on the barely survived against Bowling Green at home. Their defense is giving up 23 points a game while their offense is scoring 30.5; not a lot of separation in those respective categories.

Quarterback Dak Prescott is Mr. Everything for Mississippi State. He is leading the team in touchdowns (11), passing yard (890), and rushing yards (457). The Bulldogs are pretty much one dimensional on offense, and he's the dimension. It's a well-known fact that the Wildcats continue to struggle against quarterbacks that can run as well as they can pass. We've already seen this deficiency on display twice this season against Florida and South Carolina. Can Kentucky finally learn from their lessons?

MSU is also a team in search of their conference win and one can argue that they need it more. They still have South Carolina, Texas A&M, Alabama and Ole Miss to contend with before the season ends. Kentucky has a few more winnable games this season, conference and otherwise. Mississippi State is going to come into this game hungry and riled up at home. Can Kentucky match the spirit and the passion that the Bulldogs will bring?

It always seems as if the game against Mississippi State is a make or break type of game for the Wildcats. A bowl isn't on the line and neither is a winning record; but this game is important because the ‘Cats have had time to get healthy and they could start a trend that could carry them in the weeks to come.

We've been saying "Let's get to the second bye week and then see what happens" since the schedule came out. Well, the bye week has come and gone. Time to see what the ‘Cats are made of against a beatable opponent.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 6-4-0