UK @ MISS STATE | 3 keys and a prediction

10/24/2015 04:50 PM

  • by KSTV
  •  •  Filed under:

STARKVILLE, MS — The Kentucky Wildcats (4-2, 2-2 SEC) enter cowbell country today for an SEC showdown at Mississippi State (5-2, 1-2 SEC).

The Bad News: UK has lost six consecutive games to the Bulldogs, including a 45-31 shootout defeat at Commonwealth Stadium last season, and has only won two road games this decade.

The Good News: Kentucky already won its first road game this season, a 27-22 victory at South Carolina in Week Two, and has the offensive weapons to exploit a vulnerable Mississippi State defense.

A tough road victory in Starkville would be yet another big step forward for the Kentucky football program under head coach Mark Stoops, not to mention moving the Wildcats to within just one win of becoming bowl eligible for the first time in five years.

Here are KSTV’s three keys to a Kentucky victory:

1. Start Fast

In four of its first six games, Kentucky has surrendered an early touchdown to fall behind 7-0, including in last week’s 30-27 home loss to Auburn.

The Wildcats overcame an early deficit to win on the road at South Carolina, but Mississippi State is a different beast.

Kentucky will need to score first to silence the cowbells at Davis Wade Stadium and hold a lead entering the fourth quarter to have a chance to leave Starkville with a victory.

2. Contain Dak Prescott

1700 yards passing, 15 total touchdowns, 0 interceptions, and Mississippi State’s leading rusher, too.

Yeah, Dak Prescott is pretty good.

Kentucky will need to pick its poison against the Bulldog’s Heisman candidate behind center. He’s nearly impossible to stop, but containing Prescott by limiting chunk plays can be enough to allow the defense to bend without breaking.

3. Stay Healthy

There’s no way around it. Melvin Lewis’ season-ending leg injury against Auburn was a huge loss for the Kentucky defense. But not many teams have a five-star backup waiting in the wings on the defensive line.

Saturday night need’s to be Matt Elam’s personal breakout party. He played well in relief of Lewis against Auburn, totaling a season-high six tackles in just over two quarters of action, and now has the nose guard job all to himself.

Mark Stoops also announced during the week sophomore kicker Austin MacGinnis has overcome a groin injury a will be able to resume all place kicking duties on Saturday night.

If Elam can clog the middle, MacGinnis can make timely kicks, and the rest of the Wildcats can stay healthy, Kentucky should have a shot at escaping Starkville with a valuable victory.

  • SCORE PREDICTION: KENTUCKY 27, MISSISSIPPI STATE 24

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