Kentucky is seemingly going into a game this week that could be an easier one to win than their first two SEC contests. It’s at home vs. Mississippi State, but this isn’t your average Mississippi State team. It’s an undefeated and nationally ranked Mississippi State team, which is also coming off of a bye. MSU has had two weeks to prepare for UK and had the benefit of sitting at home on Saturday night and watching Jalen Whitlow do his thing in the first half vs. South Carolina on ESPN 2. They’ve seen Max Smith and now they’ve seen what Jalen Whitlow can do.
Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen told Brandon Marcello of the Clarion Ledger they’ll be ready for Maxwell Smith or either of the two UK backups on Saturday.
“If the Maxwell kid plays, their starter, he throws it all over the place and the backups run it all over the place,” Mullen said. “It’s almost two different game plans we have to get ready for.”
South Carolina prepared to face Maxwell Smith on Saturday, but when Smith was injured early, the Gamecocks defense was suddenly faced against a running quarterback who they had not prepared for. After Mullen’s comments today, and the fact his team is coming off a bye week, don’t expect the Bulldogs to have the same problems adjusting to whatever Kentucky throws at them as South Carolina did before making halftime adjustments on Saturday.
The defense has improved enough to make games competitive if Max Smith or Jalen Whitlow can get the offense going, but it’s also at the stage of the season where UK may be running out of surprises on offense. If healthy, can Smith get back to putting up the same numbers as he did earlier in the season? If Maxwell can’t go, can Whitlow be successful with opposing defenses now having game tape to study him and prepare to play against him?
Only time will tell, but UK will have to go with Smith or Whitlow, or Newton if both would get hurt. At 1-4, they are in no position to take the redshirt tag off of Patrick Towles.