The unbeaten Mississippi State Bulldogs carry a national ranking of No. 20 to Lexington, Ky., today facing their first Southeastern Conference road test of the season with the Kentucky Wildcats.
Kickoff is set for 11:21 a.m. for the SEC Network telecast that can be seen locally on WCBI.
State, which is 4-0 overall and 1-0 in the SEC, attempts to improve to 5-0 for only the third time in school history and the first time since 1999, when it started a perfect 8-0.
While the Bulldogs have seen their share of success in recent years, coach Dan Mullen understands his team can’t afford to look past the Wildcats.
"This will be our first SEC road game, which should be a challenge for our guys," Mullen said. "We're playing a team that has some talent. (Kentucky) played a very emotional first half (against South Carolina) and had a good halftime lead against the No. 6 team in the country. We're going to have our hands full."
Kentucky will be looking to bounce back after a second half collapse which allowed South Carolina to erase a 10-point deficit and come away with the 38-17 victory. The Cats are on a three-game losing skid and face their third consecutive ranked foe in the Bulldogs.
"It's a huge challenge, but we'll try to use it as an opportunity," Kentucky coach Joker Phillips said on Wednesday.
For MSU, balance will once again be the key to success. The Bulldogs manage 214 yards through the air and 184 yards on the ground all while scoring 36 points per game.
MSU’s starting quarterback Tyler Russell had success a season ago against Kentucky and hopes to bounce back after back-to-back lackluster outings. For the season, the Meridian native has thrown for eight touchdowns and 822 yards with just a single interception for the season.
The ground attack will once again feature LaDarius Perkins who has 389 yards this season and at least one score in each of State’s four games.
Chad Bumphis has stepped up his game during his senior year, making the big plays for the Bulldogs. While the Tupelo product may only have 12 receptions, he has a team-high 271 yards and five touchdowns. He needs just one scoring catch to pass Eric Mould and Justin Jenkins for the best in program history.
On the defensive side, State fans can expect to see the Bulldogs get after the quarterback given the fact the Wildcats will feature a pair of freshmen under center. So far State is allowing just 13.2 points per game and is leading the nation with a plus 12 turnover margin.
Kentucky’s offense has been less than stellar this season averaging just 21.8 points per game and considering the injury to quarterback Maxwell Smith the Wildcats aren’t in a great position to improve.
"We're trying to get our two freshmen quarterback ready for a game against another top-ranked team and top-ranked team," Phillips said. "(Mississippi State) has some veterans along the (defensive) front to go along with their veteran secondary."
Freshman Patrick Towles' will have his redshirt removed and will play along side Jalen Whitlow today, and that’s something the Bulldogs are looking forward to.
“Oh, you know we are going to get after the quarterback,” said MSU cornerback Darius Slay, who has four interceptions this season.
Phillips knows the pressure is coming.
"We'll have to play them both," Phillips said of his quarterbacks. "It's going to take an effort of both of them. If it's not series to series, it could be play after play after play, switching them in and out, give them things that they both can do, give them a chance to go out and play and compete.”