MSU set to face tough, talented Kentucky

Kentucky is MSU's permanent SEC Eastern Divison crossover opponent.
Staff Writer

Following a bye week and a non-conference game, the stakes get raised again for Mississippi State this weekend as the Bulldogs return to Southeastern Conference play with a 3 p.m. home game against Kentucky on Saturday.

“It’s a big, big challenge for us this week as we get back into conference play,” Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen said Monday at his weekly press conference. “They have a lot of talent. On the field, (Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops) does a good job of having them believing they can win football games. They do a good job of mixing it up between the run and pass. They have a physical defense. Guys understand their scheme and what they’re trying to do.

"They attack you from a lot of different directions and give you a lot of defensive looks. Offensively, they spread the ball around and have some really good running backs. It’ll be a big challenge for us.”

Mississippi State (4-2, 1-2) comes into the week fresh off of a 35-10 win over BYU that snapped a two-game losing streak. Meanwhile Kentucky (5-1, 2-1) has won two in a row and has lost just one game all season, a 28-27 loss to Florida in which the Wildcats miss a potential game-winning field goal as time expired.

“You never can control how the schedule plays out, but we end up this year having to play the top two teams in the SEC East (with Georgia and now Kentucky),” Mullen said. “That rotates, so it just happens sometimes with scheduling. Obviously it’s a huge challenge against an excellent football team. They are a play away really from being undefeated. They probably should be. They just had one mental mistake after really dominating the game. They should be undefeated coming in here right now and a top-25 team easily.”

If Kentucky’s solid season isn’t threatening enough for Mullen and the Bulldogs, the Wildcats also come to Starkville having snapped a seven-year losing streak to MSU last season. Mullen was 7-0 against Kentucky as MSU’s head coach before the Wildcats topped State 40-38 last year.

Mullen wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see another tight game against Kentucky this go around.

“It was a tough game for us last year up there,” Mullen said. “It went right down to the wire. We seem to have some tough battles with them year in and year out.”

Injury updates

Mississippi State could again enter this weekend’s game dealing with injured players on the offensive and defensive lines.

Left tackle Martinas Rankin, who suffered an ankle injury at Auburn on Sept. 30 and hasn’t played since, might again miss action versus Kentucky. Mullen said Rankin’s status would be determined later this week.

The availability of defensive lineman Cory Thomas will also be determined closer to Saturday’s game. Thomas has missed the last four games with a foot injury.

One bit of good news for MSU is that the Bulldogs will have added depth on the offensive line this week. Michael Story didn’t play last week against BYU after tweaking a knee, but Mullen said Story will be available against Kentucky.

Bulldogs, Aggies
set for prime time

The game time for Mississippi State’s Oct. 28 game at Texas A&M was announced on Monday.

The Bulldogs and the Aggies will kick off at 6:15 p.m. The contest will be televised nationally by ESPN. It will mark MSU’s fourth prime time ESPN game this season.