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Mississippi State football: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly vs. Vanderbilt

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NCAA Football: Mississippi State at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Week 9 of the college football season. The Bulldogs took care of business on Saturday up in Nashville, Tennessee, and walked away with a solid victory over the Commodores. Currently, Mississippi State is sitting at 2-2 in Southeastern Conference play and might be headed into one of the most important matchups of the season on Saturday.

The Bulldogs host the No. 12 Kentucky Wildcats (6-1, 4-1 SEC) on Saturday at 6 p.m. CT for their homecoming football game. Kentucky’s lone loss was against top-ranked Georgia on Oct. 16. I know this looks and sounds worse than it really is, but the Bulldogs versus Wildcats could be a much more even matchup than most predict.

So, what does Kentucky bring to Starkville, Mississippi, this Saturday? For one, a very stout run defense that has only given up 834 yards rushing this season (119 per game) along with a mere five rushing touchdowns. The Kentucky rushing defense ranks fourth in the SEC.

But Mississippi State is not a run heavy offense. In passing defense, Kentucky has been a little more forgiving while allowing 1,413 yards through the air (201.9 per game) along with 11 passing touchdowns on the season. The Kentucky passing defense ranks sixth in the SEC. This is good for the Bulldogs when 90% of their offense is through the air and the rest is on the ground. which is usually through the air as well. It’s truly amazing when you think of it.

The question for this game comes down to two aspects. First, can Kentucky stop the Air Raid offense for four quarters? And second, can Mississippi State’s defense hold Kentucky’s offense to under 28 points? Looking at the stats, I see Kentucky having problems with the Air Raid offense, and I also believe that the Bulldogs can hold Kentucky to under 28 points, so this game should come down to who makes the critical mistakes. With that being said, let’s talk Hail State football with, “The Good, the bad and the Ugly!”

The GOOD!

After a terrible outing against Alabama, the Bulldogs defense had a terrific bounce-back game by holding the Commodores to just nine yards on the ground and 146 through the air, including no touchdowns. I understand that the Bulldogs were playing Vanderbilt, but still, outside of one deep pass play, which I will discuss, the defense was solid and not as predictable as it has been the past few weeks. I just hope defensive coordinator Zach Arnett can put up a defensive game plan this week that gives the Mike Leach-led offense the ability to play his game at his pace.

Also, I would like to point out that it has become pretty clear that the Air Raid offense is more than just a heavy pass offense, but also a subtle game of attrition. That’s why the fourth quarters have been so explosive in several games this season. Even the best defensive backs have a limit to how many times they can run the 40-yard dash. It’s just a matter of time before those matchups present an opportunity for quarterback Will Rogers to strike. It’s amazing what you don’t see with a closed mind and your eyes wide open.

The BAD!

I hope most Mississippi State fans have watched the comedy show “Ted Lasso.” If so, they will understand what I am about to say. Rogers needs to become a goldfish. If you don’t know what that means, it means to have a 10-second memory and forget that he has thrown six interceptions in the past two games. Now, if he is already a goldfish, I’m sorry for reminding you of those terrible numbers, but it won’t matter in 10 seconds.

Rogers needs to stop looking for defenders and start finding open receivers. Rogers also needs to start trusting the offensive line and stop worrying about getting hit. That sack in the ‘Bama game has really got him dancing around in the pocket showing his happy feet.

It would not surprise me if Kentucky’s defensive line isn’t better than Alabama’s, and we can’t allow Rogers to catch a case of sack jitters. So, let’s go Will “goldfish” Rogers, you can do it. If not, that backup quarterback sure looked pretty good in his short, but successful outing Saturday night.

The Ugly

There is no ugly to discuss this week, but rather a terrible loss to the college football community. Coach Joe Lee Dunn passed away at the age of 75 on Tuesday.

Coach Dunn was known for inventing the attacking 3-3-5 defensive scheme. He was the defensive coordinator at Mississippi State from 1996 to 2002. Before his time at MSU, Dunn spent the 1994 season at Ole Miss as its head coach. He was also the Rebels’ defensive coordinator in 1992 and 1993. He had good ties to the Mississippi community. May he rest in peace and please keep his family in your prayers.

Prediction Week 9:

Kentucky has proven to be a tough team in 2021 and is coming into Starkville confident. I’m just as confident that the Bulldogs can win this game if they play like they did against Texas A&M for four quarters. State keeps the streak going in Starkville and pulls off the upset.

Mississippi State: 31

Kentucky: 27

GOD BLESS, HAIL STATE and GO DAWGS!!!