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Week 9 X-factors: Mississippi State vs. Kentucky

This week’s breakdown of which players will make a huge impact for both teams

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 23 Mississippi State at Vanderbilt Photo by Matthew Maxey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Homecoming weekend is finally upon us, and Mississippi State’s matchup against the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday is sure to be a great one. The Bulldogs are coming off a dominating performance against the Vanderbilt Commodores last weekend, winning 41-6.

The Wildcats are coming off their bye week and a 30-13 beatdown by Georgia two weeks ago, so they are looking for a bounce-back win to continue their successful campaign. In today’s segment, I am going to break down a few players that are going to need to have big-time performances for their respective teams to pull out the win.

Starting off with Kentucky, the Wildcats predicate their offense on the run game. However, Mississippi State has shut down nearly all opposing running attacks, and I expect the same outcome to follow suit.

Two guys on the offensive side that will need to have big games are quarterback Will Levis and leading wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson. With Mississippi state trying to make the Wildcats a one-dimensional offense, Kentucky will be relying on these two guys to be the spark to any momentum in the game.

Levis hasn’t had to throw the ball as much because of the great success that running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. has had over the course of the season. With Robinson being the No. 1 receiver on this Wildcats squad, look for Levis to target him all night.

On the defensive side of the ball, I couldn’t pick just one player that is going to have a stellar night, but rather a unit as a whole. The Wildcat secondary is susceptible to the pass attack, which is bad news for them as State’s bread and butter is through the air. The secondary has lacked the ability to get takeaways, with only three interceptions on the year. The unit has also struggled getting off the field as the Wildcats give up an average of 202 yards passing per game. If the Wildcats want to win this game, the secondary will need to find a way to limit the yards and force turnovers.

For Mississippi State, quarterback Will Rogers has the ability to blow this game wide open for the Bulldogs. The reason he is an X-factor for me this week is not because of his ability to be accurate, but rather his ability to be patient and find receivers open rather than looking for defenders. Rogers has been sickened with the turnover bug the last two games, so if Rogers can find a way to get out of those turnovers by throwing it away or scrambling for yards, this will ultimately determine the outcome for the Bulldogs.

On the defensive side, the Bulldogs are going to need to shutdown Rodriguez and force Levis to throw the ball and test the Mississippi State cornerbacks on the perimeter. We have seen every week this season that cornerbacks Emmanuel Forbes and Martin Emerson are up to the task, so the pressure comes to the defensive line as it is imperative for the Bulldogs front three to shut down the inside and force pressure on Levis without blitzing as often as they can.

If the Bulldogs can do these few things to shut down the Kentucky offense, they should be able to pull off the upset.

Final Score prediction:

Mississippi State 31

Kentucky 17

Bulldogs get revenge from last year and win on Halloween weekend.