Mississippi at Kentucky
When: 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Kroger Field (formerly Commonwealth Stadium)
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.
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.
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.
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.