Mississippi State will enter Commonwealth Stadium, quite possibly as the best Bulldogs team Starkville has seen in a long time. In recent memory, MSU along with Ole Miss have been those make-it or break-it games for Kentucky’s season. Win them and you’re on your way to a bowl game — or you make up an earlier blunder to get back on track. Lose it, and you’re slipping mightily.
Mississippi State is no joke anymore. They’re thinking SEC Championship, and they will have no fear of Kentucky on the road during this trip to Lexington.
Below are a few charts to compare where each team is currently at this season in offensive and defensive categories.
In the passing game, Kentucky is currently sitting at a 60.9% completion percentage, while Mississippi State is at 54.5%. Advantage in the passing game would go to Kentucky if Maxwell Smith were playing. But with Jalen Whitlow and possibly Patrick Towles, there’s not telling what will happen.
On the ground, Mississippi State has the clear advantage, running for 5-yards per attempt. Kentucky is running for 4.3-yards per attempt, which isn’t horrible, but Kentucky’s backs are banged up, and MSU has a deep platoon fall back on.
Some big discrepancies here. Mississippi State is scoring a lot more points and giving up a lot less, while Kentucky is scoring a lot less points and giving up a lot more. Turnovers could become a problem as well. MSU has picked off nine passes in four games, good for second-best in the country. The Cats will be running out a pair of freshmen quarterbacks…
Something to consider, however, is a stat that won’t appear in most box scores. The combined opponent’s record. Kentucky opponents are 21-2, with one loss coming to Alabama and the other loss being Kent State’s defeat at the hands of Kentucky. Compare that to the combined record of Mississippi State opponents of 8-11.
This final chart is a good showing that Kentucky struggles to do a lot of little things. Red zone scoring should be better and field goals percentage has been awful so far. One positive is that third down conversions have been much improved over last season, partially because the offense is moving the ball on first and second down. Fourth down conversions, however, are 0-for-8.