John Clay

Kentucky football: Final foes not as scary as they once appeared

Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald has been trying to fill the very big shoes of Dak Prescott. The Bulldogs play Kentucky at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday.
Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald has been trying to fill the very big shoes of Dak Prescott. The Bulldogs play Kentucky at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday. Associated Press

For Kentucky football, it’s six games down, six to go. And, to be honest, some of the remaining half-dozen opponents on the Big Blue schedule don’t look quite as scary as they once did.

After its off week, Mark Stoops’ club returns to action Saturday night against visiting Mississippi State in the first of a battery of tests that will decide if the Cats are bowl-worthy.

Here’s a foe-by-foe look at what lies ahead:

Mississippi State: MSU coach Dan Mullen has a perfect 7-0 record against UK, including a 3-0 mark vs. Stoops. This time, however, Mullen won’t be accompanied by Dak Prescott.

Since the star quarterback moved on to the Dallas Cowboys, the Bulldogs are just 2-4 this season. They were drubbed at home 38-14 by Auburn. Last Friday, they dropped a two-overtime 28-21 heartbreaker at Brigham Young.

Sophomore quarterback Nick Fitzgerald has completed less than 50 percent of his passes over his last two games (34-for-70) and the Bulldogs are just 71st nationally in total offense.

Missouri: UK travels to Columbia on Oct. 29 to face a team that has been outscored 82-21 its last two games. LSU romped 42-7 over Mizzou on Oct. 1. After first-year coach Barry Odom’s team had a week off, Missouri folded 40-14 at Florida on Saturday.

Sophomore quarterback Drew Lock was rolling under new offensive coordinator Josh Heupel before the bottom dropped out at Baton Rouge. Lock completed just 17 of 37 passes against LSU. Saturday, Florida’s stellar secondary picked off Lock twice and returned both for touchdowns.

Missouri has played better at home, however. On Sept. 17, it led Georgia in the fourth quarter before losing 28-27. Then again, well, let’s discuss the Bulldogs.

Georgia: Dawg Nation couldn’t wait to send head coach Mark Richt packing in favor of favorite son Kirby Smart, the former Georgia defensive back who coordinated Nick Saban’s Alabama defenses.

The Welcome Wagon has hit the ditch, however. Georgia is 4-3 overall and 2-3 in the SEC. The Bulldogs were blasted 45-14 at Ole Miss, lost 34-31 to Tennessee on a Hail Mary at game’s end and — yikes — lost at home to Vanderbilt 17-16 on Saturday.

Georgia visits Lexington on Nov. 5. The Dawgs haven’t lost at Commonwealth Stadium since 2006 when their quarterback was true freshman Matthew Stafford. Coincidentally, the UGA quarterback this year is true freshman Jacob Eason.

Tennessee: All but handed the SEC East crown in the preseason, the Vols sit 5-2 overall and 2-2 in the SEC. They lost in overtime at unbeaten Texas A&M — no big deal. They were drubbed by No. 1 Alabama 49-10 on Saturday — not a great big deal.

The problem for Butch Jones’ team is injuries and lots of them. Of the 18 returning starters from last year, seven missed the game against the Crimson Tide. Star linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin underwent shoulder surgery last week and is likely out for the year.

On the other hand, Tennessee welcomes UK to Neyland Stadium on Nov. 12. And Kentucky hasn’t won in Knoxville since 1984.

Austin Peay: The FCS team visits Lexington on Nov. 19. The Governors are 0-6, including 0-5 in the OVC. You get the idea.

Louisville: Kentucky visits Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium on Nov. 26 when there’s a good chance Bobby Petrino’s team will still be in the College Football Playoff hunt. After its six-point loss at Clemson on Oct. 1, the Cardinals need to win out and win impressively.

That didn’t happen on Friday when U of L held off Duke 24-14. True, Duke Coach David Cutcliffe showed his smarts, executing a keep-away game plan. On the other hand, as a 34-point favorite, U of L didn’t help its CFP cause.

Who knows what might happen between now and Thanksgiving. U of L quarterback Lamar Jackson may have salted away the Heisman Trophy. Or maybe a resurgent UK will carry some serious momentum into the ‘Ville.

The second half starts Saturday.

Saturday

Mississippi State at Kentucky

7:30 p.m. (SEC Network)

Kentucky football 2016

Date

Opponent

UK

Opp

Dec

Rec

SEC

9/3

Southern Miss

35

44

L

0-1

9/10

@Florida

7

45

L

0-2

0-1

9/17

New Mexico St

62

42

W

1-2

9/24

South Carolina

17

10

W

2-2

1-1

10/1

@Alabama

6

34

L

2-3

1-2

10/8

Vanderbilt

20

13

W

3-3

2-2

10/22

Miss St

10/29

@Missouri

11/5

Georgia

11/12

@Tennessee

11/19

Austin Peay

11/26

@Louisville

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader

  Comments