The 3-0 Bulldogs take their show back on the road this weekend to Lexington, Kentucky to take on the Kentucky Wildcats. This inter-divisional SEC matchup will prove to be the biggest test of the year for Mississippi thus far. Coming into 2018, this four game stretch was a critical launching board for the Bulldogs to the rest of their season. While both teams will be bringing a 3-0 record to Saturday’s showdown, the two have played very differently. The Wildcats have soundly beaten their opponents averaging a 21.3 point average margin of victory. Meanwhile, Mississippi State has been dismantling opponents by averaging a 41.3 point average margin of victory. The Bulldogs are ranked ninth in total offense and eighth in total defense in the nation. The Wildcats are 37th in total offense and 27th in total defense. Kentucky is a well rounded team, and they have home field advantage on their side. However, Mississippi State has put the Bull in Bulldogs this season so far, and have been living up to their preseason hype. Here’s three keys to Saturday’s game.
Key 1- Mississippi State’s passing game VS Kentucky’s pass defense
Mississippi State’s passing game has cooled off since an impressive opening day performance. However, given the nature of the last two week’s games, the passing attempts and yards may be down to due to the nature of the game scripts. With that said, the Bulldogs rank 67th in the nation in team passing yards currently, averaging 215 yards per game. On the other side, Kentucky is ranked 42nd in the nation against the pass, allowing 183 yards per game. Mississippi’s passing attack is a notch above that which Kentucky has faced to this point, and they should be able to go after Kentucky through the air.
Key 2- Kentucky’s rush offense VS Mississippi State’s rush defense
Kentucky’s rush offense is currently ranked 11th in the nation, averaging 282.3 yards per game. Defensively, Mississippi State is ranked 13th against the run allowing just 85 yards per game. Kentucky’s pass offense is ranked 117th in the nation, meaning their attack is far from balanced. If Mississippi state can bottle up the run, and force Kentucky to beat them through the air they should be able to keep Kentucky from consistently putting points on the board. It’s strength vs strength, and this matchup could determine Saturday’s outcome.
Key 3- Penalties
It’s safe to say at this point, that neither team has shown great discipline in regards to penalties. Mississippi State currently ranks 71st in the country averaging 59.67 penalty yards per game. Kentucky ranks 108th, averaging 73.67 penalty yards per game. If one of the two can clean this up for Saturday, and the other stays around their average, it would be a huge game advantage.
Vegas Insider is currently showing Mississippi State as 10 point road favorites on Saturday. Kentucky is a good team and as said above will be the best test so far for Mississippi State. With that said, the Bulldogs are the more well balanced team all around. Lexington with be energized and loud early on Saturday so this could be a dog fight in the first half. In the second half, the tide will turn though. Bulldogs will win to go 4-0 and will cover the spread.
Mississippi State- 34
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