The Bulldogs are on the road this weekend with a trip to Lexington to take on the Kentucky Wildcats. We sent some questions over to the fine folks at A Sea Of Blue to see what we could learn about the Wildcats going in to this game.
1. Kentucky seemed to surprise a lot of people with their win at Auburn. Have the wildcats been sort of under the radar this season?
Maybe a little. Kentucky's history in the SEC since the 1960's can probably best be described as "guaranteed win" to most of the top SEC teams like Auburn, especially at home. And it is also a fact that UK has not played well on the road in the SEC, even when they have been considered pretty good, so I'm sure it came as a surprise to everyone on the Plains when UK came in and played a pretty flawless game against the Tigers.
For me, I always saw this as a potential win. Very few teams with a new coach don't wind up with growing pains, and even though Auburn had been very successful up to the point of our visit down there, I thought it was always likely that the inevitable problems from a new coach would crop in. I think there was more of that going on that day than most people realize.
2. Aside from the win over Auburn, I don't really know much about Kentucky this year. Tell us who to watch out for on offense and defense.
On offense, there are really two names: Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke. Locke blew out his ACL last year, but has managed to recover almost all of his explosive speed. He was banged up for the last game and only played a few possessions but should see more snaps vs. MSU. Locke is devastating if he gets past the line of scrimmage. Locke can also catch the ball and is our #1 kick returner, and he was leading the league in all-purpose yards prior to last game, where he played sparingly. He is still #3 in that statistic.
Randall Cobb is one of the most devastating offensive threats in the league, because he can do everything. He was a high-school quarterback, and throws a beautiful ball. He is a remarkable runner, and in the Wildcat formation, he is a Tebowesque weapon with elusiveness rather than raw power. As a receiver, he is leading the team in both receptions and yards, and is the third-best punt returner in the SEC. Of all the players you should worry about on offense, Randall Cobb is #1.
Defensively, Corey Peters is really feeling his oats on the defensive line, and is getting good penetration. He will find a way to get into the MSU backfield. Micah Johnson, our leading tackler, will play but likely not start due to a slight MCL strain, so he won't be 100%. We are okay in linebacker depth, although at the Mike we are not as strong as elsewhere. Sam Maxwell has been picking up the slack from the Sam spot, and Danny Travathan from the Will.
Not that it would matter all that much against run-oriented MSU, but our all-American candidate cornerback, Trevard Lindley, is still down with a high ankle sprain. He will be capably backed up by Randall Burden, who is kind of feast or famine at that spot -- he had a pick six last game, but also was out of position several times and, if the ULM quarterback had been more experienced, he could have burned us for big plays.
3. Who will we see the most of at QB? Fidler, Newton or Cobb?
Probably something like this: Newton, 45%, Fidler 35%, Cobb 20%, although Brooks has been talking about upping the snaps for Cobb. The more MSU challenges Kentucky, the more of Randall Cobb you will see taking snaps.
4. Kentucky is giving up 174 yards per game on the ground. How will the defense match up against the Mississippi State running attack?
I wouldn't take too much heart in that statistic. It includes a 362-yard game by Florida and a 63 yard game vs. Miami. If you throw out the extremes, UK is averaging a much more respectable 159 yards/game, 8th or 9th vs. dead last. UK typically yields just a bit under average yards per game against opponents if you discount the Florida and Miami (OH) games. I think MSU will gain just under 200 yards on the ground versus the 'Cats.
5. Give me an outcome prediction for this game.
Being a homer, I will pick UK 28-21. It should be a close game, both teams are well-matched. If this game were in Starkville, I'm not sure I would pick the 'Cats to win.