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The Depth Chart Podcast: Mississippi State

After a brief break for the Bye Week, Freddie Maggard returns for another exciting episode of The Depth Chart Podcast to preview Kentucky’s road trip to Starkville.  On top of Freddie’s knowledge, the podcast got a little perspective from a superfan who knows the Bulldogs better than anyone.  Highlights:

—  The Cats and the Bulldogs are a lot closer than the Vegas line appears.

—  Freddie found few tendencies, except on critical third downs.

—  Tips for those traveling to Starkville (DON’T FORGET EARPLUGS!).

— Why this game looks a lot like the 2016 UofL game.

—  A Game of Thrones reference all nerds will enjoy.

Editor’s Note: Sorry about the interview quality. For unknown reasons it was on the fritz this week and adds a little too much pop.  Please persevere through it; I promise it’s worth it. 

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play.  Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to “Kentucky Sports Radio” on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.


Mark Stoops’ Team is Healthy Ahead of Trip to Starkville

In his final meeting with the media prior to Kentucky’s road trip to Starkville, Mark Stoops did not have any significant injury setbacks to report.

Charles Walker will be back for the Mississippi State game, as will All-SEC linebacker Jordan Jones.  Even if Jones doesn’t have a dozen tackles in his return, his infectious energy will benefit the Kentucky defense.

“I was out at practice, I guess yesterday and I was standing behind Darius [West].  Jordan was Jordan, flying around, and Darius just turned around and said, ‘He’s back!'”

Now that Jones is back, Boogie Watson is back to playing outside linebacker.  The timing is perfect for Watson’s return to the outside.  Stoops revealed Jordan Bonner recently suffered an injury that will force him to miss a significant amount of time.  Now Watson will be Josh Allen’s backup at Sam linebacker.

Stoops also shared his thoughts on playing vs. tempo, how Danny Clark has mimicked Nick Fitzgerald in practice and more.

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Top Four Quotes of the Day: the Best from the Defense

Top Four Quotes of the Day: the Best from the Defense

The defensive players and coaches spoke with the media following today’s practice and, as always, they had plenty to say. Here are the top quotes of the day:

“I ain’t gonna lie to you: it’s cool.” – Josh Allen

When asked about being named an AP and Sports Illustrated Second-Team Midseason All-American, Allen was honest. But just because he’s happy with the recognition doesn’t mean he’s content with stopping here.

“But it’s only mid-season. I want to wait for the end of the season so it can be official,” Allen said. “Second team sounds good, but I’m trying to aim for the first team.”

The former two-star recruit is tied for third in the nation with 6.5 total sacks. He’s fourth on the team in tackles with 35.

While the Bulldogs have only given up three sacks so far this season, Allen is determined to change that.

“I just heard – somebody told me today – they’ve only given up three sacks,” Allen said. “So, hope I can get four, five.”

“He’s a really physical runner – he’s not your typical quarterback runner.” – Matt House

Defensive coordinator Matt House isn’t one for chatter, but he had plenty to say about Mississippi State’s quarterback, Nick Fitzgerald. The 6-foot-5 junior is considered a dual-threat quarterback. In addition to being the team’s leading passer, he’s the Bulldogs’ second-leading rusher. Fitzgerald has surpassed 100 rushing yards twice already this season: he ran for 111 yards against Louisiana Tech and had 100 yards against BYU.

“He really is like having another downhill back in the backfield. So tackling becomes important,” Coach House said. “They do a good job with cut blocks on the perimeter, so we’re going to have to do a great job of playing the cut and just playing good fundamental football, but also creating the extra number.”

“I don’t know nothing about the cowbells.” – Eli Brown

The sophomore has yet to travel to Davis Wade Stadium, but he isn’t scared of the atmosphere.

“I love playing away,” Brown said. “I ain’t gonna lie; I ain’t gonna sugar coat it. I love playing away. They’re yelling for their team, but you feel like they’re yelling for you.”

But what about those annoying cowbells? I was standing outside of practice today while the cowbell noises were playing, and, to state the obvious, they were annoying.

But the veterans have been warning the younger players about the intensity of the cowbells, saying the fake noises are “nothing” compared to the real thing, according to Brown.

“I’ve been hearing them in practice, but it’s not going to be like in a game, man,” Brown said. “You just have to be ready, be ready to play, and I think that we’re all just ready.”

“The great thing is it’s just halfway.” – Matt House

When Coach House was asked about Josh Allen’s mid-season honors, he reiterated that they are, in fact, just midseason honors. But being just halfway through this season applies to a lot more than Allen’s sack record.

While a 5-1 start feels great, there are still a lot of unknowns about this team. Yes, Kentucky could be undefeated and bowl eligible had it not been for a few costly mistakes against Florida, but the record could also be significantly worse – especially if those final plays by Eastern Michigan and Missouri had been more successful.

Mississippi State is a huge test for the Cats. Saturday’s game against the Bulldogs marks the transition into the tougher part of the season, and having a road game against arguably the strongest remaining quarterback on the schedule doesn’t help.

But this is also where the season gets exciting. So buckle up, because we’re just halfway done.


@MaggieDavisKSR


WATCH: Everything Matt House has to say about Kentucky vs Mississippi State

WATCH: Everything Matt House has to say about Kentucky vs Mississippi State

Following today’s practice, defensive coordinator Matt House spoke with the media. He previewed Saturday’s game against Mississippi State, plus he talked about Jordan Jones’ return and Josh Allen’s success so far this season.

See everything he had to say here:


@MaggieDavisKSR


Roast A Mascot: Mississippi State Bulldogs

Roast A Mascot: Mississippi State Bulldogs

I’d like to preface this post by saying, I love dogs. Dogs of all different shapes and sizes, they’re all great. I’m sure a majority of you reading this would agree. However, this does not mean we can’t make fun of them from time to time. 

The bulldog was ranked as the third most common college mascot in an article posted by Buzzfeed in 2013. A total of 40 schools use the bulldog as their symbol. Not only is it incredibly unoriginal but it begs the bigger question of: why? Have these schools ever been around a bulldog? Of all dog breeds I’ve been around I’ve never encountered one as lethargic and uninspired as the bulldog.

Normally, I like to use the entirety of this post to cut down another school’s cherished symbol but this week there is no point. For the bulldog, it has already been done for me, in a way that I simply could not outdo no matter how hard I may try.

The bulldog was already roasted on the popular HBO series, Silicon Valley, by actor Matt Ross’ character, Gavin Belson. Belson is a billionaire tech entrepreneur who is CEO of Hooli – the show’s fictional equivalent of Google. Belson often uses animal metaphors in his board meetings and in one meeting he shines light on, you guessed it, a bulldog.

There is no point in trying to reinvent the wheel, so I’ll let Gavin Belson take the reigns and roast this week’s mascot: the Mississippi State Bulldog

Consider the bulldog before the Cat’s take on Mississippi State this Saturday.

“A kindly pet or humanity’s cruelest mistake?”


Kentucky has Experience in Close Games, Miss. State Does Not

Kentucky is going on the road as ten-point underdogs to face one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC.  The Cats’ backs are against the wall, but they still have one advantage over Mississippi State: experience in close games.

Last week Mississippi State beat BYU by 25 points and it was the closest game they’ve played all year.  They’ve won games by 49, but also lost by 39 and 28 points.  Each Miss. State game has been decided by an average of 34.5 points.

On the other hand, Kentucky’s games have all been close.  An average of only 6.5 points have separated UK from each opponent.  The widest margin of victory was only 11 over EKU.  If Saturday’s game is close, Kentucky can say something State can’t, “play like you’ve been there before.”

What decides those close games?  Offensive lineman Nick Haynes says it all comes down to details.

“The details of certain things in close games are all that matters,” Haynes said. “It can literally be a step, it can be an extra step on a route, it can be anything that causes you to lose a game.  One play.  We don’t know which play it is, so every play you gotta be detailed and focused and know what you’re doing, especially in close games because not many yards separate us, not many points separate us.”

Against Florida, it came down to one point and one slip of the hand that resulted in a holding call on Haynes that pushed Kentucky out of field goal range (a hold Haynes still insists is BS).  Even though it looked like the game was over, Stephen Johnson did not panic.  He completed one more pass to give Austin MacGinnis a shot to win the game.  When the pressure is on, Johnson always remains clam.

“He calms himself down first and then does have that confidence around him that we feel like we’ll be alright,” Haynes said.  “It doesn’t really matter what just happened.  We do it a lot.  We overcome adversity all the time.”

Being in those situations frequently has grayed the hair of many Kentucky fans, but it’s beneficial for the players and play-callers.  Familiarity in high-pressured situations takes the pressure off, according to offensive coordinator Eddie Gran.

“At the end of the day, it’s about what we do out here every single Wednesday [in practice].  It’s live,” he said. “We’re trying to put them in those pressure situations so when you do get to that moment, it’s not so much pressure.  Now you let your fundamentals take over, your technique and you can do your job.”

The pressure increases in hostile road environments, but that’s not necessarily the case with this Kentucky team.  They’ve won five of their last six on the road since they traveled to Tuscaloosa last year.  For a lack of a better term, the team brings an “F U” mentality on the road that starts at the top.

“That stems from the head coach,” Gran said.  “It’s really all you’ve got.  You go, you get on that bus, you get on that plane, it’s going down there, it’s a hostile environment and that’s why you play in this league.  That’s why you play football, for the opportunities to go on the road and come out with a victory.”

If the Cats keep it close in Starkville, they can seize another opportunity and stake their claim as one of the best teams in the SEC.


Don’t Fear the Cowbell

MSState.edu

To become bowl eligible in just the seventh game of the 2017 season, the Kentucky football team will have to combat 11 Bulldogs on the field and more than 50,000 cowbells in the stands.  Today the football team got a taste of what it will sound like through the loud speakers on the practice field.

“It’s in our ears the whole day,” center Drake Jackson said.  “I don’t know why they had to do it on a Tuesday.  They normally do it on a Wednesday so we weren’t expecting that.”

“We couldn’t hear today.  I couldn’t talk,” said offensive coordinator Eddie Gran.  “You just let them play.  This is how it’s going to be.  There’s going to be times when you can’t hear.”

The Cats have already learned in two road games how to communicate in a hostile environment.  The cowbells add another element unheard by many before.

“It’s a little hard,” Stephen Johnson said.  “You can’t really hear anybody else around you, so as long as the outside receivers know the play, it’s really communicating with the o-line and with the running back on where we need to go and what we need to do.”

Johnson’s task will be the most difficult.  On the offensive line, Jackson only needs to be able to communicate with the four guys next to him.

“When you’re only communicating between a couple of guys it’s not as hard,” he said.  “You do have to out-scream the cowbells, but not to a wide receiver or anything.  I’m just talking to the guy next to me.”

Nick Haynes has experience hearing the cowbells at Davis-Wade Stadium.  His message to those who have not heard them before is simple.

“At the end of the day, no matter what noise is going around the camera is still on,” said Haynes.  “The film is your life right now.  All that extra, we don’t even look at that, think about that at all.  We’ve been in plenty of loud environments so I don’t really see that as being much of a problem.”

Kentucky must remain focused.  If the Cats can remain dialed-in like Haynes, it shouldn’t be a problem.

“I’ve never had any problem with it.  I didn’t have a problem with it being overly loud.  I think it’s just because on the field you’re so locked in, you’re focused.  I don’t even like to put that in my mind at all. Whenever I get down there I do my job.”

Kentucky fans in the stands will not like what they hear on Saturday, but they’ll like what they see on the field if today’s practice translates to Starkville.  Gran admitted, “I really liked what I saw today.”


Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Cats in the NFL Week Six Recap

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

 

Wesley Woodyard had himself a night as the former Kentucky great had 8 tackles, 2 QB hits, a fumble recovery, and the game sealing tackle on 4th and short to give the Titans a 36-22 win on Monday Night Football.

Former Kentucky Head Coach Rich Brooks gave his former star a shout out on Twitter;

Woodyard wasn’t the only Wildcat making plays on Monday night, Avery Williamson had 6 tackles along with a forced fumble in the third quarter that changed the momentum of the game in favor of the Titans.

Le’veon Bell carried the ball 32 times for 179 yards as the Steelers defeated the previously undefeated Kansas City Chiefs 19-13 in Arrowhead Stadium. Bud Dupree recorded just one tackle in the win.

Za’Darius Smith recorded just one tackle in the Ravens 27-24 overtime loss to the Chicago Bears.

Randall Cobb had 3 catches for 28 yards as the Vikings defeated the Packers 23-10. It was a tough day for Packers fans as Aaron Rodgers was carted off the field with a broken collarbone, the former MVP is likely out for the season. It will be interesting to see how the injury affects Cobb’s targets as Brett Hundley takes over at quarterback moving forward.

Danny Trevathan had another strong showing as the Bears improved to 2-4 with their win over the Baltimore Ravens. Trevathan had 6 solo tackles, 1 sack, and a fumble recovery in the 27-24 win.

Adrian Peterson, the Cardinals newest acquisition ,carried the ball 26 times for 134 yards and 2 touchdowns to lead Arizona to a 38-33 win against the Bucs. Corey Peters had 2 tackles including one tackle for loss in the win.


Why Stephen Johnson is the Perfect Quarterback for Kentucky

Stephen Johnson’s success on the field and his contributions to the community off the field have been well-documented.  The source of his success is simple: he’s a good dude.

His numbers speak for themselves.  Since he took over as the starting quarterback Kentucky is 12-5.  This year he’s completing 64 percent of his passes.  He’s only thrown two interceptions while accounting for 11 touchdowns and more than 230 total yards per game.

The numbers paint a productive picture, but that’s not the sole reason why he’s great.  Senior offensive lineman Nick Haynes believes Johnson’s intangibles are what makes him the perfect person to lead Kentucky’s offense.

“I think he’s such a good guy that it’s so easy to follow somebody that’s such a good guy outside of the field.  I hang out with him all the time.  He’s a good dude.  You want to play for somebody like that.  That’s all it is.  You can talk to him for ten minutes and you’d be like, ‘I want to play for him.'”

There’s a popular narrative by traditionalists that you can’t be a nice guy and a great football player; only tough guys succeed.  Johnson debunks that theory.  He is a nice guy who is tough as nails too.

“He’s just a tough guy,” Haynes said.  “You watch him take hits and he doesn’t yell at anybody.  If I was taking those hits, I would’ve yelled at everybody on the offensive line.  There is no way that is going to happen to me.  He doesn’t yell or nothing, he just says, ‘We’ll be alright.’  He’ll calm ’em down and gets everything going.

“Stephen’s perfect to me.  I wouldn’t trade him for anybody else.”


Josh Allen is a Midseason AP All-American

Josh Allen is a Midseason AP All-American

Through the first half of the college football season Kentucky’s Josh Allen was one of the best players in America.  Allen is a Second Team Midseason AP All-American linebacker, a group selected by 16 members of the Associated Press.

After six games of the 2017 season, the former two-star recruit leads the SEC in sacks and is tied for third in the nation with 6.5.  Allen’s 8.5 tackles for loss are tied for second in the conference.  He’s fourth on the team in tackles with 35 and also has two forced fumbles.

If Allen’s second half of the season is anything like his first half, this is just the first of many honors.

The AP’s Midseason All-American Team 


The KSR Football Podcast: Mississippi State Preview

The KSR Football Podcast crew is refreshed and ready for another week of Kentucky football after the Bye Week.  While the Wildcats were off, the SEC went wild.  Freddie, Jared, Drew and Nick share what they learned on Saturday, preview Nick Fitzgerald’s Bulldogs, and…

— What UK has learned in close games that State has not experienced.

—  Advantages UK has off a Bye Week.

—  Jared’s freshman GPA.

—  A small crime Drew committed everyday for four years.

—  Nick and Stingray: BFFs.

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play.  Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to “Kentucky Sports Radio” on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.


Mississippi State Scouting Report: Part I

Mississippi State Scouting Report: Part I

Picture by The Oxford Eagle

I fully expect Saturday’s game to become a little testy with so much on the line for both Mississippi State and Kentucky. What’s up for grabs that’s so important for both programs? An attainable and evasive SEC victory in the final stretch of the 2017 season. The Bulldogs have experienced extensive superiority in the fledgling rivalry under Dan Mullen. That was until 2016 when an Austin MacGinnis’ field goal split the uprights with no time remaining on the clock to give the UK its fourth win of the season, its first win over MSU in seven years, and tied the overall series 22-22.

The Bulldogs began the 2017 with a bang as it beat up on Charleston Southern and Louisiana Tech prior to dominating a newly-resurgent LSU team 37-7 in Starkville. Matter of fact, MSU is the only FBS program to face three consecutively ranked opponents without the benefit of a bye week. Following its win over the Bayou Bengals, Miss State went on lose two sequential road games at Georgia (31-3) and Auburn (49-10). Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald and a stingy defense bounced back with a 35-10 home victory over BYU. This film was not useful in evaluation as the Cougars are 1-6 and dreadfully bad.

So, here we are. Mississippi State is 4-2 with an upcoming trip to College Station. Things are again trending up for Dan Mullen after a challenging road stretch. Kentucky is 5-1. The Cats continue to be disrespected, unranked, and are a 10-point underdog with an upcoming matchup with Tennessee.

This is not a “must-win” for Mark Stoops. That term was vastly overused a year ago and remains exaggerated. All games are must wins. Let’s take a look at the Mississippi State Bulldogs:

2017 Schedule

Miss State Charleston Southern W 49-0
Miss State @ Louisiana Tech W 57-21
Miss State LSU W 37-7
Miss State @Georgia L 3-31
Miss State @Auburn L 10-49
Miss State BYU W 35-10

OFFENSE

Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald continues to develop under Dan Mullen’s tutelage. Mullen is the best play caller that UK will have faced in its first seven games. Miss State has very few predictable offensive tendencies and is well coached in diversifying personnel packages, motions, and formations. Fitzgerald is a physical, down-hill runner that is becoming a more polished passer. At times, he lacks accuracy which is highlighted by a 54% completion percentage. The junior was considered a preseason Heisman Hopeful and is one of the better QBs in the Southeastern Conference.

Unlike a year ago, Fitzgerald is not the team’s leading rusher. RB Aeris Williams has taken over that role by running for 523 yards (87 ypg) and a couple scores. Elite left tackle Martinas Rankin is arguably the best player on the offense and is projected to be selected in the first/second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. However, he missed the BYU game due to an injury. His status is yet to be determined. Rankin compares to Florida’s Martez Ivey and is better than Missouri RT Paul Adams.

Miss State will rely on a physical run game, the RPO (Run-Pass-Option), play action passing, and ball security to control the game clock. Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald and running back Aeris Williams have yet to fumble in 2017. The Dogs rush for 261 yards-per-game (14th in nation) while averaging 170 (SEC-13th) through the air. WR’s and RB’s seem to be interchangeable in certain situations and are speedy. It also has quick strike capability ranking 4th in the SEC in the Long Run Plays from Scrimmage category.

Top Performers

Passing Nick Fitzgerald 54.9%, 1,024 yds, 10 TDs, 7 INTs, 170.7 ypg
Rushing Aeris Williams 97 carries, 523 yds, 2 TDs 87.17 ypg
Receiving Keith Mixon 16 rec, 238 yds, 1 TD

2017 Production

Scoring 31.8 ppg SEC-5th
Rushing 261.67 ypg SEC-3rd, 14th nationally
Passing 181 SEC-13th
Total 442.7 SEC-5th
3rd Down 44.32% SEC-3rd
Red-Zone 75.86% SEC-13th
Turnover Margin 0 SEC-7th

*Vs. ranked opponents: 365 ypg

**Vs. unranked opponents: 520 ypg

Projected Starters

Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald 6’5, 230 Jr.
Running Back Aeris Williams 6’1, 217 Jr.
Receiver Donald Gray 5’10, 200 Sr.
Receiver Gabe Myles 6’0, 195 Sr.
Receiver Keith Mixon 5’8, 175 So.
Tight End Farrod Green 6’3, 236 So.
Left Tackle Martinas Rankin 6’5, 315 Sr.
Left Guard Darryl Williams 6’2, 305 So.
Center Elgton Jenkins 6’4, 315 Jr.
Right Guard Deion Calhoun 6’3, 315 Jr.
Right Tackle Stewart Reese 6’5, 333 Fr.

Picture by The Clarion-Ledger

DEFENSE

Mississippi State and Louisville swapped defensive coordinators in the offseason. Todd Grantham left Bobby 2.0 for StarkVegas. Peter Sirmon departed Dan Mullen’s staff to join the Fighting Lamar Jacksons. Grantham’s defense is ranked 3rd in the SEC and 8th in the nation. It will blitz or attempt to create some type of pressure on approximately 35-40% of snaps. His aggressive scheme normally relies upon man-to-man coverage in the secondary while creating chaos or disruption with the front-seven. There will be familiarity from his days coordinating the Wildcats’ arch-rival’s defense. Stephen Johnson took advantage of Grantham’s aggressive nature a year ago.

Jeffrey Simmons is the best nose tackle that Kentucky will have faced through seven games. This could present a challenge for the Wildcat center rotation. Freshman Drake Jackson more than held his own against Mizzou’s Terry Beckner Jr. Simmons presents a whole new level of challenge. The 6’4, 301-pound sophomore is an elite athlete that happens to play nose tackle. He’s registered 3.5 QB sacks and 4 tackles for loss. Those numbers are extraordinarily high for that position. Simmons is critical to the Bulldog defense.

Miss State sports a defense that relies upon speed and power but is not overly deep. It’s also the biggest front-seven that UK has faced. Safety Brandon Bryan reportedly sports a 4.2, 40-time so there is recovery speed from the back line. Fellow safety Mark McLaurin is the team’s co-leader with 1 interception. The Dog’s stress backfield disruption but is just 12th in the SEC with 32 TFL’s and 12th in the league with 10 QB sacks. Its led in tackles by linebacker Dez Harris. The best player on the defense is NT Jeffrey Simmons.

2017 Production

Scoring 19.7 ppg SEC-6th
Rushing 117.71 ypg SEC-5th
Passing 155 SEC-2nd, 4th nationally
Total 284.8 SEC-3rd 8th nationally
Red-Zone 81.82% SEC-6th
3rd Down 30.77% SEC-4th

*MSU is ranked 1st in nation vs. non-ranked opponents by allowing just 174 yards-per-game.

**Ranked 38th in the nation vs. ranked opponents; allows 395 per game.

Top Performers

Tackles Dez Harris 38 total
QB Sacks Jeffrey Simmons 3.5
Tackles for Loss Jeffrey Simmons 4
Interceptions Mark McLaurin 1

Projected Starters

Defensive End Fletcher Adams 6’2, 270 So.
Nose Tackle Jeffrey Simmons 6’4, 301 So.
Defensive End Cory Thomas 6’5, 303 Jr.
Outside Linebacker Montez Sweat 6’6, 240 Jr.
Mike Linebacker Dez Harris 6’4, 243 Sr.
Will Linebacker Leo Lewis 6’2, 235 So.
Outside Linebacker Gerri Green 6’4, 250 Jr.
Cornerback Tolando Cleveland 6’0, 195 Sr.
Cornerback Lashard Durr 5’11, 195 Sr.
Safety Mark McLaurin 6’2, 215 Jr.
Safety Brandon Bryant 6’0, 215 Jr.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Punter Logan Cook 46.2 yards per
Kicker Jase Christmann 5/5 FG’s, long-
Punt Returner Donald Gray 11.5 per
Kick Returner Keith Mixon 17.8 per

UK will have faced the number 1-4 ranked SEC punters with Logan Cook coming up on Saturday. Gray and Mixon carry over their receiver responsibilities to the return game.


What does all this mean?

Mississippi State is a good football team led by a crafty head coach, a dangerous quarterback, and a defensive coordinator that will be seeking revenge. Kentucky will have its hands full on Saturday. The challenge awaiting the Wildcats is arduous but not impossible. Kentucky will have to play a clean (turnover-free) game that consists of an improved run game to coexist with Stephen Johnson’s ability to execute the RPO and play action passing. Defensive coordinator Matt House must find a way to slow the run which will force Miss State into one-dimensional, passing scenarios.

This game is another manageable SEC road victory but it won’t come easy. The stakes are high for both the Dogs and Cats.

— Remember to listen to Part II of the Miss State Scouting Report on Thursday’s Depth Chart Podcast.


Today on KSR: Mississippi State, NBA Opening Night, Rick’s fake texts

Today on KSR: Mississippi State, NBA Opening Night, Rick’s fake texts

Today was supposed to be all about Matt’s interview with Karen Sypher, but last night, Sypher called it off. Alas, there are still plenty of reasons to make fun of Rick Pitino, who was officially fired by the University of Louisville yesterday.

Such as…

Those text messages are clearly fake

Part of Rick Pitino’s defense yesterday was a text message thread with Jim Gatto, the adidas executive in the center of the bribery scandal, which Pitino’s lawyer Steve Pence presented as proof the two were texting about Terry Rozier’s shoe deal, NOT paying Brian Bowen. Those texts were sketchy enough — it’s obvious several had been deleted — but as Joe Sonka noted last night, the last came on September 28, two days AFTER Gatto was arrested:

Clearly, Pence should have paid more attention to the scandal’s timeline when he (or someone) doctored those texts. When Sonka asked him about it, he delivered this response:

Obviously, Pence does not know how iPhones work. As with everything with the University of Louisville lately, just when you think it can’t get more ridiculous, it does.

In other news…

Eddie Gran talks about his offense

We’ll get an update on the offense from Eddie Gran after practice today as the Cats prepare to take on the Bulldogs in Starkville. ICYMI, Stoops told reporters that the bye week was good to his team, with several players recovering from minor injuries that piled up over the first half of the season. His presser was short and sweet, so check out Roush’s recap to catch up:

The Six Best Quotes From Mark Stoops’ Pre-Miss. State Press Conference

We’ll get Freddie’s Mississippi State scouting report

We know the Bulldogs have an impressive quarterback in Nick Fitzgerald, but what about the rest of the squad? Check the site around lunch for Freddie’s thorough scouting report.

It’s Opening Night in the NBA

It’s hard to believe, but the NBA season is already upon us. Tonight’s games: Boston at Cleveland at 8 p.m., followed by Houston at Golden State at 10:30 p.m. Both games will be on TNT for your viewing pleasure.

Did you see the end of the Titans/Colts game?

It’s been an up and down season for my Titans so far, but last night, they pulled off a huge win over the Colts thanks to Marcus Mariota, who was back from injury; field goal kicker extraordinaire Ryan Succop; and former Cat Wesley Woodyard, who had this huge stop on 4th and 1 in the 4th quarter:

That earned him this praise from his teammates:

Radio in an hour. Without Sypher, maybe they’ll even get to the restaurant bracket.


Stoops Shares the Secret to the Wildcats’ Success

Mark Stoops’ Kentucky Wildcats continue to win.  Despite mistakes and multiple nail-biters, they continue to win.  Kentucky has used a variety of different formulas to win, but there’s one constant: balance.

“You just gotta be smart and keep people off balance, and that’s what we’re always looking for, balance in our offense,” Stoops said on tonight’s call-in show.  “It’s always a team effort and that’s why we’ve been able to win more than we’ve lost these last 17 games.  It’s because we’ve found nice balance to be able to run the ball, possess it, take our shots when we can, mix it up and just play team football.

“That’s the way we’re built.  We’re not dominant on offense, defense or special teams, but we’re good in all phases.”

The Kentucky football team has come a long way from where they started under Mark Stoops but he never dwells on the past.  He only uses it to learn from mistakes.

“We constantly learn from bad beats. That’s coaching…But I really don’t ever.  I really try not to ever hit pause, and certainly try not to ever look back.  Everything’s out in front of us.  One thing about this business is you gotta prove yourself every seven days.  We’re just constantly looking for ways to get better.”


Ranking Kentucky’s Six Remaining Games

Ranking Kentucky’s Six Remaining Games

Kentucky won the bye week with a climb up to No. 26 in the rankings and a much-needed break from football to get healthy for the second half of the season. Now it’s on to the final stretch of six games and things are looking much better than anyone could’ve ever imagined. This is arguably the easiest schedule the Wildcats will ever play, but they have to capitalize on the opportunity for an unprecedented season for the program.

Here’s how I rank what’s ahead, beginning with the hardest game of the entire season…

 

1. Georgia
Athens, Ga. | Saturday, November 18

This is the only game on the schedule that Kentucky fans will watch with little optimism. Can Kentucky steal a win down in Athens? Sure, #WhyNot. But Georgia is the third-ranked team in college football right now and Sanford Stadium is one of the toughest road environments in the game, especially if there are SEC East implications on the line.

The five other remaining games are very winnable, and we should go into each one with high expectations.


2. Mississippi State
Starkville, Ms. | Saturday, October 21

Coming in at No. 2 on this list is the Cats’ next game: at Mississippi State. It will be the first road contest in over a month and the Bulldogs opened up as a 10-point favorite in the game.

You’ll have to go back to 2008 to find a Kentucky win in Starkville as the Bulldogs have taken the last three at home; and they had won seven straight in the series, until losing in Lexington on a last-second field goal one year ago.


3. Louisville
Lexington, Ky. | Saturday, November 25

Louisville is Kentucky’s third-toughest game on the schedule, although it doesn’t seem too tough after watching the Cards’ last two games. Louisville’s entire season hasn’t been all that impressive, but Lamar Jackson is still Lamar Jackson and he’ll be out for revenge after choking away last year’s meeting in Louisville.

If the game were played tomorrow, I think Kentucky would be favored.


4. Ole Miss
Lexington, Ky. | Saturday, November 4

Ole Miss is fourth, but it’s really Shea Patterson at fourth. The Rebels’ quarterback torched Vanderbilt for 351 yards and four scores over the weekend, extending his lead on the league’s other QBs with 2,143 yards on the year.

Ole Miss has been a tough team to read, but Patterson makes them a real threat.


5. Vanderbilt
Nashville, Tn. | Saturday, November 11

It wasn’t all that long ago when Vanderbilt looked like a decent football team. The Commodores knocked off a top-20 team and had one of the best defenses in the country through three games, all wins; then Alabama beat the brakes off of them in Nashville and things haven’t been the same since.

Nashville has been a tough place for Kentucky in recent years, though — the Cats have dropped three straight in that empty stadium Vanderbilt calls home, and Vandy has won four of the last six overall.

This one will be easier to gauge once we see how each team looks when it’s time to play it next month.


6. Tennessee
Lexington, Ky. | Saturday, October 28

Tennessee is trash. If not for Alabama on the Vols’ schedule this coming weekend, I think Butch Jones would’ve been fired Sunday afternoon. UT will instead keep him around long enough to let him get murdered one more time, in Tuscaloosa, and then consider firing him the week of the Kentucky game.

I’m not sure he’ll make it to Lexington for Halloween weekend. If he does, the Wildcats have the opportunity to close the book on the Butch Jones era of Tennessee football. The end is near, one way or another, because the Vols are not good at football.