Even for the Kentucky fans that watch other UK sports besides basketball (if those fans exist), it is time for basketball season. Joker Phillips' Wildcats are 1-4, with loses to in-state rival Louisville and in-state Sun Belt team, Western Kentucky. The lone win on the season for the Wildcats came against Kent State. They have given up 38 points in each of their first two SEC games. Against Florida they were shut out, and against South Carolina, they were up at the half, before getting blanked in the second half and letting the Gamecocks run away with a W.
For Joker Phillips and company, the road gets no easier. They have six more SEC games this season, starting this weekend against MSU. On top of that, their starting quarterback, Maxwell Smith, just had surgery and is out for the foreseeable future. That means Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles (who was set to redshirt this season), two true freshman quarterbacks, will split time in Smith's absence.
In the SEC, freshman quarterbacks get eaten alive, especially by secondaries like MSU's. Last week Jalen Whitlow did not look bad against South Carolina in the first half, but the offense went quiet in the second half of play. UK offensive coordinator, Randy Sanders, dialed back the complexity of the UK offense to accommodate for Whitlow's knowledge of the playbook in his first season in the offense.
Now that is where things can get dangerous for the Wildcats. You're talking about dialing back the complexity of an offense that was shut out against Florida, couldn't outscore Western Kentucky, only scored 14 on Louisville - who gave up more than that to Southern Miss while playing on a pond - and was shut out in the second half by South Carolina. You're dumbing down, so to speak, an offense that was obviously pretty easy for defenses to figure out before it was simplified.
A positive sign for Kentucky is that they showed some energy and some fight in the first half against South Carolina. South Carolina did not play their best football in that half, the old ball coach said so in his own words on his way to the locker room, but Kentucky had them down by 10 and it should have been more. The momentum created in that half was short-lived. If UK could somehow channel their first half selves from last week and put it on the field for four quarters, they might be able to compete with MSU this weekend, but that is a tall order.
MSU is looking to improve to 2-0 in the SEC, and while they have played many opponents this season that they were bigger and stronger than, they will be playing an SEC foe this weekend. While Kentucky isn't as physically outmatched as some of MSU's non-conference foes, they will be significantly less athletic.
MSU will have advantages at almost every position, like they have in many games this season. Look for the front seven of MSU to really control the offensive line of Kentucky and put pressure on those young quarterbacks. Then look for the secondary of MSU to throw the knockout blow to the UK offense as they should show the young Wildcat signal callers a level they have yet to see and probably won't see again this season.
On offense, look for MSU to try and get going, and get in a rhythm before they have to try and outscore Tennessee in the following week. The Dawgs are also coming off of a bye week so look for the offensive line to be rested and fresh and ready to control the line of scrimmage.
I have a sneaky feeling that Johnthan Banks will have a few interceptions in this game. I am an alumnus of Tupelo High School. Last week they had a kid to have three interceptions against Grenada. He ran two of them back for touchdowns and slipped on what would have been his third pic six. His name is Quinn Tiggs. I'm not much for prediction(because I'm usually wrong), but I just have a sneaky feeling that Johnthan Banks could have a similar day on Saturday in Lexington.