No. 20 Mississippi State (4-0, 1-0 SEC) at Kentucky (1-4, 0-2 SEC)
When: 12:21 p.m. TV: WKYT-27 (SEC Network)
Where: Commonwealth Stadium
Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1, Sirius Channel 94, XM Channel 201
Series: Kentucky leads 21-18, but Mississippi State has won three in a row
Last meeting: Mississippi State won 28-16 on Oct. 29, 2011, in Commonwealth Stadium.
Line: Mississippi State is favored by 10.5 points.
A child — or two — shall lead
With Maxwell Smith out indefinitely with a torn ankle ligament, Joker Phillips says UK will use not one but two true freshmen quarterbacks in Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles Saturday. Whitlow played an effective first half last week after Smith was knocked out after two plays by South Carolina; he looked like a true frosh in half two. Towles, Kentucky’s reigning high school Mr. Football, will be seeing his first action if he does, in fact, play.
Protect the rock
Mississippi State leads the SEC in interceptions with nine, has recovered six fumbles and is first in the conference in turnover margin at plus-13. MSU cornerbacks Johnathan Banks (three picks in 2012; 15 career) and Darius Slay (SEC-best four interceptions this year) are especially effective ball hawks. This will be a severe test for Kentucky’s rookie QBs.
Run the ball
One way for Kentucky to take pressure off its young signal callers would be to control the football on the ground. With smallish backs CoShik Williams and Raymond Sanders beaten up physically, that responsibility should fall to Jonathan George and true freshman Dyshawn Mobley. An effective UK running game could also help the Kentucky defense by keeping the Mississippi State offense (third in SEC in time of possession at 30:32) off the field.
Remains dark. With a healthy Maxwell Smith, this was the game where UK needed to make a stand. Without Smith, that will be difficult. But Joker Phillips’ announcement that the redshirt is coming off home-state hero Patrick Towles at least creates some fresh curiosity among a dispirited fan base.