How Kentucky and Miss. State match up

October 30, 2010 

Matchups

QUARTERBACK

Kentucky's Mike Hartline continued his mid-season tear, setting a career-high in passing yards (354) for the second straight week against Georgia. On Tuesday, Hartline was added to the Watch List for the Manning Award, which is given to the nation's top quarterback. Junior Chris Relf has been a nice dual run-pass threat, which is a big key to running Dan Mullen's spread offense for Mississippi State.

Advantage: Kentucky

RUNNING BACK

MSU junior-college transfer Vick Ballard will be ready to go after sitting out the UAB game with an ankle injury. Ballard has scored 12 touchdowns in seven games this season. The injury news isn't as good for Kentucky's Derrick Locke, who will miss his third straight game with a shoulder injury. Freshman Raymond Sanders had a nice game against Georgia last week and will start in Locke's absence, with sophomore Donald Russell available in relief.

Advantage: Mississippi State

RECEIVER

Not many people outside of Lexington are talking about it, but the Wildcats receivers have quietly developed into one of the league's best units. UK (Randall Cobb and Chris Matthews) and Arkansas (Greg Childs and Joe Adams) are the only teams who have two receivers in the top 10 in receptions per game and receiving yards. Most of the big plays in the MSU passing game will be made by sophomore Chad Bumphis (33 catches, 461 yards, four touchdowns).

Advantage: Kentucky

OFFENSIVE LINE

The Kentucky line has cooled off after a hot start, allowing three sacks each against South Carolina and Georgia. In addition to protecting Hartline, the UK front five will need to create more space for Sanders and Russell to run. This is the Bulldogs' best line in years. They returned four starters with a combined 85 starts and are led by senior left tackle Derek Sherrod.

Advantage: Even

DEFENSIVE LINE

Mississippi State doesn't generate much of a pass rush with its front four, but it is fairly stout against the run and has an All-SEC-caliber player in end Pernell McPhee. The Wildcats don't pressure opposing quarterbacks, either, but defensive coordinator Steve Brown's primary concern is not allowing the Bulldogs to run roughshod all night.

Advantage: Mississippi State

LINEBACKER

A week after getting terrorized by Georgia's Justin Houston, the Wildcats will face another disruptive linebacker in MSU's Chris White, who has 12 tackles for loss and five sacks. Kentucky is shaking things up this week, moving Ridge Wilson into the starting lineup at strong-side linebacker for Jacob Dufrene. The Cats need somebody other than Danny Trevathan to start making plays at the position.

Advantage: Mississippi State

SECONDARY

Kentucky's pass defense numbers are pretty good, but part of that is because teams haven't had to throw it much to move the ball. Mississippi State's secondary isn't anything to write home about, either, and the Bulldogs haven't faced a team all season with the kind of passing attack Kentucky has.

Advantage: Even

SPECIAL TEAMS

The Kentucky special teams allowed another big kickoff return last week to Georgia's Brandon Boykin, and they'll have to be on alert again — Mississippi State's Leon Berry ran a 97-yarder back on Alcorn State. UK kicker Craig McIntosh has earned the full trust of the staff on field goals, but the return game has been somewhat disappointing. Mississippi State kicker Derek DePasquale went 5-for-5 on field goals in his first start against UAB last week.

Advantage: Mississippi State

Chip Cosby

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