UK Football

Kentucky vs. No. 1 Miss. State: How they match up and a game prediction

Kentucky offensive tackle Jordan Swindle, left, blocked Florida defensive lineman Dante Fowler Jr. Swindle has been whistled for several false-start penalties this season.
Kentucky offensive tackle Jordan Swindle, left, blocked Florida defensive lineman Dante Fowler Jr. Swindle has been whistled for several false-start penalties this season. Herald-Leader

How Kentucky and Mississippi State match up for Saturday's game at Commonwealth Stadium:

QUARTERBACKS

Kentucky's Patrick Towles is coming off his least productive passing game (19-for-36 for 146 yards) at LSU. Of course, it's hard for a quarterback to look good when he does not have time to throw or open receivers to whom to throw. Mississippi State's Dak Prescott is fifth in the SEC in rushing (96 yards a game), fifth in passing (246.3 yards a game) and second in total offense (342.3 yards a game). The 6-foot-2, 230-pound junior is first presently in most Heisman Trophy polls.

Advantage: Mississippi State

RUNNING BACKS

True freshman battering ram Mikel Horton, a 230-pound bruiser, was UK's leading rusher (five carries for 29 yards) at LSU. Another Kentucky freshman, Stanley "Boom" Williams was knocked out of the game with a head injury. All the attention reaped by Dak Prescott has somewhat overshadowed the stellar season Mississippi State's Josh Robinson is having. The 5-foot-9, 215-pounder is second in the SEC in rushing (114.8 yards a game), is averaging 7 yards a carry and has scored eight rushing touchdowns.

Advantage: Mississippi State

WIDE RECEIVERS

Senior Demarco Robinson was Kentucky's most productive wideout at LSU (three catches, 52 yards). Mark Stoops this week implored UK's leading receiver, ex-Franklin County star Ryan Timmons (31 catches), to raise his play in big games. Mississippi State's Jameon Lewis killed the Cats last year in State's 28-22 win in Starkville. The 5-9, 187-pound senior caught a TD pass, ran for a touchdown and threw a TD pass. He's been out of State's prior two games with a leg injury, but MSU Coach Dan Mullen said Monday he expected Lewis back at "100 percent" for UK.

Advantage: Mississippi State

TIGHT ENDS

Kentucky is not getting production in the passing game from seniors Steven Borden and Ronnie Shields, neither of whom have caught a pass since the season opener. MSU's Malcolm Johnson has 10 catches for 135 yards and two TDs. The 6-2, 231-pound senior burned Kentucky for a 60-yard touchdown catch last season.

Advantage: Mississippi State

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

Kentucky tackle Jordan Swindle is considered one of the team's emotional leaders. Is an engine over-revving the reason the 6-7, 306-pound junior has had so many false-start penalties this year? Mississippi State right guard Ben Beckwith has already earned SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week honors twice this season (vs. LSU and Texas A&M).

Advantage: Mississippi State

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

UK defensive tackle Melvin Lewis had nine tackles at LSU. Star end Alvin "Bud" Dupree played the best game (13 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack) of his Kentucky career last season vs. State. MSU senior end Preston Smith is sixth in the SEC in sacks with 4.5 (in six games) and also has two interceptions. Some consider massive (6-5, 308) sophomore tackle Chris Jones one of the better NFL prospects in the SEC — yet he's listed second team on the Bulldogs' depth chart. He has 15 tackles and two sacks.

Advantage: Even

LINEBACKERS

Linebacker/end Travaughn Paschal had 10 tackles for Kentucky at LSU. UK starting middle linebacker Josh Forrest did too, and is now seventh in the SEC in tackles (56). Mississippi State's Benardrick McKinney leads MSU in tackles (41) and the 6-5, 249-pound junior has six tackles for loss and three sacks.

Advantage: Mississippi State

SECONDARY

Kentucky backup safety Marcus McWilson picked off his third pass of the season last week at LSU and also made 10 tackles. MSU is last in the SEC in pass defense (allowing 308.3 yards a game) yet is third in the league in interceptions (11). Cornerback Will Redmond and strong safety Jay Hughes each have two picks.

Advantage: Kentucky

SPECIAL TEAMS

After last week's disaster in Baton Rouge, Kentucky will have special teams ace J.D. Harmon (suspended for the first half at LSU for targeting) available for a full game. Depending on his health, kickoff return standout Stanley "Boom" Williams may not be available, however. Mississippi State has struggled with place-kicking. State is 3-for-5 on field goals and has not hit from outside 30 yards. The Bulldogs have missed three extra points. Punter Devon Bell is solid, however, averaging 43.5 yards with 10 of 24 kicks inside the 20.

Advantage: Even

PREDICTION

Mississippi State 31, Kentucky 21.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader

  Comments