Mark Story

Blue Preview: Your guide to Kentucky’s football game vs. Mississippi

Tavin Richardson has been Kentucky’s most consistent receiver

Kentucky wide receiver Tavin Richardson made two big catches in the win over Tennessee. That wasn’t an accident said offensive coordinator Eddie Gran and quarterback Stephen Johnson.
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Kentucky wide receiver Tavin Richardson made two big catches in the win over Tennessee. That wasn’t an accident said offensive coordinator Eddie Gran and quarterback Stephen Johnson.

Mississippi at Kentucky

When: 4 p.m. Saturday

Where: Kroger Field (formerly Commonwealth Stadium)

TV: SEC Network (play-by-play, Dave Neal; analysis, Matt Stinchcomb; sideline, Dawn Davenport)

Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1, XM Channel 192, Sirius Channel 157

Records: Kentucky 6-2 (3-2 SEC), Mississippi 3-5 (1-4 SEC)

Series: Mississippi leads 27-14-1 but Kentucky has won two of the last three

Last meeting: Kentucky won 30-13 on Nov. 5, 2011, in Lexington

Line: Kentucky is favored by 3.5 points.

The story line

With bowl eligibility secured for Kentucky, Mark Stoops, Stephen Johnson and the Wildcats will try to earn the two more wins that would give the Wildcats their first eight-win regular season since 1984. After the fall of Hugh Freeze amidst scandal last summer, Mississippi has an interim head coach in Matt Luke. The Rebels come to Lexington off a brutal loss, seeing a 31-7 lead over Arkansas turn into a 38-37 loss last week in Oxford.

During Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops’ press conference on Monday, true freshman nose guard Quinton Bohanna was singled out for his play in Saturday’s 29-26 win over Tennessee.

The big threat

Mississippi wide receivers. Ole Miss leads the SEC in passing (338.1 yards a game) and has the best group of wideouts in the SEC. Sophomore A.J. Brown leads the league in receiving yards (765), is tied for first in receptions (41) and is tied for third in receiving TDs (six). Sophomore Van Jefferson (34 catches, 345 yards), junior big-play machine Damarkus Lodge (28 catches, 511 yards, six TDs) and redshirt freshman D.K. Metcalf (30 receptions, 479 yards, four TDs) are all potent WR threats as well.

A.J. Brown
Mississippi wide receiver A.J. Brown leads the SEC in receiving yards (765), is tied for first in receptions (41) and is second in receiving touchdowns (six). Rogelio V. Solis Associated Press

On the spot

Kentucky secondary. For a pass defense that has struggled all season, Ole Miss is a massive challenge. UK will seek to contain the most prolific passing attack in the SEC with the league’s last-place pass defense (266.6 yards a game allowed). The Wildcats coaching staff moved to shake up its veteran secondary this week, elevating junior-college transfer Lonnie Johnson to first team at cornerback ahead of junior Chris Westry, who has started all 33 prior games of his Wildcats career.

170930_UK vs EMich_MM_417125
After Kentucky cornerback Lonnie Johnson made three tackles with a quarterback sack and a pass breakup in UK’s 29-26 win over Tennessee, the junior-college transfer has moved ahead of veteran Chris Westry on the Wildcats’ depth chart. Mark Mahan

The mood

Is conflicted. With Kentucky coming off a rare and emotional victory over Tennessee, some of the UK fan base wants to embrace a team that keeps finding ways to win games. Other Cats backers can’t get past the ugly manner Kentucky is winning in a season in which the Wildcats have been outgained by every team they have played except for Eastern Kentucky of the FCS. Which viewpoint ultimately becomes the narrative for Kentucky’s 2017 football season will be determined in the season’s final four games, starting with Ole Miss.

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