Southern Mississippi at Kentucky
When: 7:30 p.m Saturday
Where: Commonwealth Stadium
TV: ESPNU (play-by-play, Anish Shroff; analysis, Ahmad Brooks)
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Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1, XM Channel 93, Sirius Channel 93
Records: Southern Mississippi 0-0 (9-5 last season), Kentucky 0-0 (5-7)
Series: Kentucky leads 2-0
Last meeting: Kentucky won 32-0 on Oct. 4, 1986, at Commonwealth Stadium
Line: Kentucky by 6 points
The story line
Looking for his first winning year as Kentucky’s head coach, Mark Stoops begins his fourth season in a tricky spot. He will go head-to-head with new Southern Mississippi offensive coordinator, Shannon Dawson — the same Shannon Dawson that Stoops fired as UK OC after last season.
On the spot
Stoops. Can you imagine the fury that would rain down on the Kentucky coach on the radio sports talk shows and social media platforms if Dawson and Southern Miss were to hang 40-plus on the Wildcats in a Southern Miss victory?
The big threat
Last year as a junior, Southern Mississippi quarterback Nick Mullens threw for 4,476 yards and 38 TDs (vs. only 12 interceptions) while completing a robust 63.5 percent of his passes. He could be the best passing QB UK faces in 2016.
Has seemed blah. After starting 4-1 last season, Kentucky collapsed to a 1-6 finish that included dispiriting losses at Vanderbilt and to Louisville. Entering 2016, UK football fans are in “show me” mode, exemplified by tepid season-ticket sales. A win over a C-USA team, even a good one like Southern Miss, won’t fix that — but a loss would be catastrophic.