Davis wade stadium
Mississippi State squares off against Kentucky Saturday in the final game of a three-game homestand and one that will determine who takes a one-game lead in the overall series between the two teams.
Kentucky (4-2, 2-2) and MSU (5-2, 1-2) are all nodded up at 21 wins. State has won the last six contests, with Kentucky's last victory in the series coming in a tight 14-13 battle in 2008 at Davis Wade Stadium.
Speaking of tight games, Kentucky is no stranger to nail biters as every game they have played this season has been decided by eight points or less. They pulled off victories against conference foes South Carolina and Missouri, and their two losses in the league came at the hands of Florida and Auburn, by a combined eight points.
Dan Mullen's six straight wins over the Wildcats have been decided by around an average of 10 points. It should be yet another close one this season. Kentucky is a much better team than a lot of people are giving them credit for, and they could easily be 5-1 or 6-0 if some breaks would have gone their way.
As for MSU, a win Saturday would make them bowl eligible for the sixth straight season, continuing to add to the school record.
Let's take a look at where MSU and Kentucky stack up statistically.
Where do they rank?
MSU offense Kentucky defense
Points per game- 34.1 (41st) Points per game- 23.2 (45th)
Total YPG- 425 (52nd) Total YPG- 374.8 (55th)
Passing YPG- 283.1 (26th) Passing YPG- 207.3 (50th)
Rushing YPG- 141.9 (99th) Rushing YPG- 167.5 (67th)
Kentucky Offense MSU defense
Points per game- 26.2 (85th) Points per game- 18 (22nd)
Total YPG- 387.5 (80th) Total YPG- 368.4 (48th)
Passing YPG- 252 (46th) Passing YPG- 206.9 (49th)
Rushing YPG- 135.5 (105th) Rushing YPG- 161.6 (64th)
Headlines to watch
Here comes the boom
As you can see from the stats, Kentucky's overall run game has been pretty ineffective like State's. However, the Cats have some individual talent in the form of Stanley Boom Williams. What a football name, I love it. Boom has racked up 456 rushing yards in five games played, averaging a solid 7.2 yards a pop. In last week's 30-27 loss to Auburn, Williams rushed for 113 yards on 16 carries with a pair of scores. Among SEC running backs with 60 or more carries, Williams trails only Nick Chubb and Leonard Fournette in yards per attempt.
Many expect Kentucky to come out slinging the ball around to take advantage of an injury-plagued MSU secondary, but don't sleep on Williams. He only carries the ball 12 times a game due to splitting reps with Jojo Kemp, but Williams is too good of a player and can do too much damage with those carries for the MSU defense not to key on him.
Avoiding the interception
As I wrote in an article earlier this week, Dak Prescott is just 18 more passes without an interception away from passing AJ McCarron for the second longest streak in SEC history. He needs 52 more to break the overall record, and while it's doubtful he throws that many passes in the game, he will certainly have enough attempts to gun for McCarron's record and the No. 2 spot.
Dynamite in the red zone
MSU and Kentucky scoff at the idea that it's harder to move the ball inside the red zone. In fact, these are the two best red zone offenses in the Southeastern Conference, both in overall scoring and touchdown conversions. I guess that throws out the whole theory that you have to be able to run the ball to move it inside the 20. MSU leads the league converting 76 percent of their red zone drives into touchdowns. Kentucky is second with a 68 percent touchdown rate.
The big matchup to watch here is Kentucky's offense vs. MSU's defense, which is also tops in the league in holding teams out of the end zone inside the 20. Will the bend but don't break style of Manny Diaz keep holding up? So far so good.
Towles licking his chops
Kentucky QB Patrick Towles had himself an extraordinary game when these teams met last season in Lexington. He killed MSU on the ground and through the air on the way to 466 total yards and five touchdowns. Towles accounted for over 92 percent of Kentucky's offensive production.
He's had an up-and-down season in 2015, throwing for eight touchdowns to seven interceptions. Despite the turnovers, he's starting to find a groove as he eclipsed 300 yards passing in each of the last two games against Eastern Kentucky and Auburn.
State's young secondary will be tested early and often, especially if the rumors are true about Will Redmond being out with a torn ACL. Although the school hasn't released anything official, all signs point to this being true as it has been reported by multiple media outlets. Redmond would be the second starter lost in MSU's secondary this season. Saturday will be a good test for the youngsters replacing them.
When it comes down to it, there isn't a lot of difference between these two football teams. They can beat you through the air, they struggle to run the football, and they play good but not great defense. I expect another competitive game because Kentucky always makes this one close, but MSU will win its seventh straight over the Cats thanks to the home field advantage and a big performance from the best player on the field in Dak Prescott.
MSU- 34 Kentucky- 21