Saturday's Mississippi State-Kentucky football game could turn out to be one of attrition. Both teams come in battered and bruised after several weeks of facing quality competition.
And judging by what's happened in this series over the past few years, it also figures to be an all-out battle to the finish.
Three of the past four games have been decided by a touchdown or less, and you could make the case that MSU has become Kentucky's fiercest rival in terms of competitiveness and drama.
In 2006, UK receiver Dicky Lyons drew Coach Rich Brooks' ire for popping off the week of the game and then went out and made a miraculous TD catch in the Cats' 34-31 win.
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The next year, State handed Kentucky one of the toughest losses of the Brooks era when it came to Commonwealth Stadium and beat up UK 31-14. That loss dropped what many still feel was Brooks' best Kentucky team down a notch or two in the bowl-selection process.
Last year, the two teams exchanged heated words in the tunnel before the game, and UK pulled out a 14-13 win.
Kentucky's players concur that the Mississippi State game has become a heated rivalry that's somewhat under the radar.
"There's always so much on the line when these two teams play, and it's always a real physical game," said UK senior running back Alfonso Smith. "Put all of that together, and there's going to be a few tense moments out there. They're going to come in here and try and bloody our nose, and we're going to try and bloody theirs. It could get real nasty."
UK comes into this game without a couple of key players and several others who are bothered by nagging injuries. Its best linebacker, Micah Johnson, is expected to play but might be limited by a strained knee. Its best cornerback, Trevard Lindley, is probably still a week away from returning from a high ankle sprain. And its most effective quarterback, Mike Hartline, is still on the shelf with a knee injury.
"Sometimes I feel like I'm 50 or 60 years old," UK wide receiver Randall Cobb said. "But that just comes with it. It's mainly little things like ankle twists, hamstring pulls, nothing that will stop you from playing. This is probably the biggest game of our season. We're going to need everybody out there this week. It's just something that you have to tell yourself mentally that you're fine."
Cobb, UK's top offensive weapon, doesn't have any serious injuries but has been getting regular treatment to deal with some bumps and bruises.
But don't expect Mississippi State to shed any tears. While Kentucky's open date came way back in week two, the Bulldogs have played seven straight weeks without a bye and have tussled with the likes of Florida, Louisiana State, Georgia Tech and Houston. And MSU gave a good account of itself in each of those games.
"I don't think there's any question our players know we're playing a very good football team," Rich Brooks said. "They played Florida right to the wire; they played LSU and could have or should have beaten them. This is SEC football on a weekly basis, and we have to be ready to play 60 minutes and play a really good game and have a shot."