If Kentucky has any aspiration of sidetracking Dak Prescott's accelerating Heisman Trophy bandwagon by upsetting No. 1-ranked Mississippi State, its best chance seems basic:
Hope the deuce gets loose on MSU again.
A year ago in Kentucky's 28-22 near-miss in Starkville, Kentucky defensive standout Alvin "Bud" Dupree — No. 2 on your roster card — played the best game of his UK career. The 6-foot-4, 264-pound end/linebacker made a career-high 13 tackles and had two tackles for loss and a crucial, fourth-quarter quarterback sack.
"Stats-wise, it was probably my best game since I've been here," Dupree said this week. "Now, I just want to follow up with it and do all I can for my teammates."
When Mississippi State invades Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday at 3:30 p.m., it will mean the most-buzzed about player in college football will be in Lexington. In leading State to victories over teams ranked in the top 10 over three straight weeks, Prescott has established himself as the Heisman favorite.
The epitome of a dual-threat QB, the 6-foot-2, 230-pound junior has run for 568 yards and eight touchdowns and thrown for 1,478 yards and 14 TDs. Prescott even has a TD catch (he had a scoring reception against Kentucky last year, too).
Growing up in Haughton, La., Prescott idolized Tim Tebow. Like the former Florida star, he wears No. 15. In signing with MSU head coach Dan Mullen, Prescott chose to play college football for Tebow's UF offensive coordinator.
UK defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh says the Prescott/Tebow comparisons are legit. "He really does (remind me of Tebow)," Brumbaugh said. "He throws the ball pretty well. That ball comes off his hand. They do a good job of knowing the runs he needs to make."
In a "taking down the fastest gun in the west" sort of way, Prescott's burgeoning national reputation is a chance to make a name for Kentucky — and for Dupree.
UK Coach Mark Stoops has extolled the virtues of the Irwinton, Ga., product all season, saying he expects the converted tight end to be a first-round NFL Draft pick in 2015.
Dupree has contributed some big moments to UK's 5-2 start. After UK tackle Mike Douglas batted a Dylan Thompson pass into the air, Dupree caught it and turned it into the game-winning touchdown in Kentucky's upset of South Carolina.
The following week, Dupree blocked a field goal against Louisiana-Monroe.
Still, Dupree's stat line is behind the pace he set a year ago. In his first seven games of 2013, Dupree had 45 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. This year, he has 35 tackles, 4.5 TFL and three sacks.
The Kentucky brain trust says the difference in Dupree's numbers is caused by foes putting extra blockers against him this season.
"On pass plays, he'll rarely have one guy blocking him," Kentucky defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said. "And then, on run plays, it's kind of the same thing. People are doubling up to him and he's going to face that. He's a good player and that's just part of it."
If Dupree is frustrated, Eliot says he hasn't seen it. "Bud is one of the greatest team players I've ever worked with," he said.
Dupree said the additional attention he has gotten this year from blockers has made for a good lesson in patience.
"I can't get anxious. I can't get mad," he said. "I've just got to keep going with the flow. As long as my team is doing good, I look at it that way. Not try to be a selfish player, just make sure I am doing it for the good of my team."
Still, Dupree does have some individual goals. With 19 career quarterback sacks, he needs seven more to tie and eight more to break Oliver Barnett's Kentucky school record of 26 sacks.
"I'm aiming for it," Dupree said of the record. "Whatever comes, it's gonna come. I want as many sacks as I can get. I know I don't have a lot right now. ... Teams are scheming me pretty good. I take that as a compliment."
Of those 13 tackles Dupree made in Starkville last season, four came against Prescott. With yakety-yak about Dak now all the rage in the national college football conversation, a similar effort from Kentucky's No. 2 on Saturday before a CBS national TV audience would make Alvin "Bud" Dupree a household name.
"It's very motivating," Dupree said. "He's a Heisman candidate. They are No. 1 in the nation. There's not too much more you can ask for (as) a football player when you want to be the best."