Both Kentucky and Mississippi State are looking to rebound after tough games last week. What does the national media believe will happen in Mike Leach’s return to the Commonwealth? For the most part, they’re picking Kentucky to get its first win of the season. Here’s a roundup of predictions.
ESPN: Kentucky (-2)
Doug Kezirian: I am cautiously backing Kentucky, not because I doubt them but because I have a lot of respect for Mike Leach and K.J. Costello. In this very column, I backed the Bulldogs in their opener at LSU. However, the Wildcats have caught some bad luck and seem poised for a breakout performance. I also like what I’ve seen from Kentucky’s defense, and I think the Wildcats will follow the proper script to limit Leach’s offense.
Picks: Kentucky -2, under 58
Preston Johnson: Mike Leach offenses are the definition of high variance. One week you can upset LSU on the road, and the next you can lose to Arkansas at home as a 17-point favorite. I was lucky enough to predict both upsets, but in this matchup, I think the market is discrediting Kentucky for its 0-2 start too excessively. I project the Wildcats a five-point favorite, and when this opened -3 earlier in the week, I planned to pass on the game. Now that we are under the key number of three, it’s a buy on Terry Wilson and the better team, playing at home, at a cheap price.
Pick: Kentucky -2
ESPN Matchup Predictor: Kentucky
Stanford Steve: Kentucky (-2)
Stanford Steve: Kentucky has had some wild things happen during its 0-2 start to the season, like an extra point missed in overtime to lose, which was preceded by a running back celebrating too early and getting tackled short of the goal line — and then, two plays later, fumbling the ball away. Kentucky also blew a double-digit lead last week. I think Mark Stoops has the respect of his team, and the Wildcats will regroup to win and cover versus Mississippi State. I’ll lay the points.
Pick: Kentucky -2 (Kentucky 31, Miss. State 20)
CBS Sports’ Barrett Sallee: Kentucky (-2.5)
Mississippi State at Kentucky (-2.5): It’s time for Bulldogs coach Mike Leach to show the world what his team really is after it fell back down to Earth last weekend in a loss to Arkansas. There will be another one coming this weekend. Wildcats coach Mark Stoops is one of the most brilliant defensive minds in the country, and you can bet that he has poured over the film this week to find out what the Razorbacks did well against the air raid (see: a lot of zone). His defense, coupled with a stout rushing attack that will limit Mississippi State’s possessions, will earn the Wildcats a rather comfortable win. Pick: Kentucky (-2.5)
CBS Sports’ Tom Fornelli: Mississippi State
Bounce back of the Week
Mississippi State (+2) at Kentucky: So, the thing with Mike Leach is you would much rather bet him as an underdog than a favorite. After beating LSU in the opener, there was no way his team was going to cover against Arkansas, though I didn’t see the outright loss coming. Now that Leach is a dog again, we’re all over it. Leach has gone 29-19 ATS as a dog since 2012, but more than that, it’s who he’s an underdog against this week. I like this Kentucky team, and I thought it could make some noise in the SEC East this season. But so far, it’s 0-2 and has struggled to get anything going in the passing game. Well, guess who has the best run defense in the country right now? Mississippi State is allowing 1.91 yards per carry through two games. That’s the best in the nation. Mississippi State 31, Kentucky 27
Each week, the Tennessean asks a panel of SEC writers to pick league games against the spread. Eight of the 14 writers picked Kentucky to cover the -2 spread.
- Robbie Andreu, Gainesville Sun
- Eric Blum, Columbia Tribune
- Eric Boykin, Spartanburg Herald-Journal
- Glenn Guilbeau, Daily Advertiser
- Pat Dooley, Gainesville Sun
- Jon Hale, Courier Journal
- Nick Suss, The Clarion Ledger
- Blake Toppmeyer, Knoxville News Sentinel
Sports Illustrated: 3 Kentucky, 1 Mississippi State
Athlon Sports’ Kyle Kensing: Kentucky
Kentucky’s 0-2 start might be the most disappointing development of the early SEC season. An 0-3 start in an abbreviated campaign would be a close-to-insurmountable disaster. Mississippi State poses a unique challenge with its unorthodox offensive approach, and Costello showed in the season-opener just how dangerous he can be.
However, the Arkansas loss proved the Air Raid isn’t infallible. Kentucky must generate turnovers as the Razorbacks did, which starts with applying pressure in the Bulldogs backfield. Should the Wildcats do so, they’ll get off the schneid.
Prediction: Kentucky 30, Mississippi State 27
Predicted score: Kentucky 27.4, Mississippi State 24.1
Kentucky will win, cover the spread (-2.5), and the total (57.5) will go over