Well peeps, it's been a fun two weeks. Our Dawgs are the undisputed Number 1 team in the country. Now comes the hard part: Playing, and winning, with expectations. Being the hunted instead of the hunter. Taking the best shot of every team we'll play for the rest of the season, because we're the team to beat. First up: The University of Kentucky Wildcats at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington. What will our Dawgs need to do to leave Lexington still undefeated? Here's what I think:
1. You all know it by now: Run the "Darn" Football - I want to see us reassert ourselves on the ground. We got away from that a little bit against Auburn. Kentucky is not a strong team when it comes to stopping the run, allowing 172.9 rushing YPG and 4.2 YPC. Run early, run often. Run it down their throats and make them like it. Reestablish our physicality up front, turn the big uglies loose, and feed the beasts.
2. Stop the Run: Another of the usual suspects. Take away UK's run game and force Towles to beat us throwing the ball. If you ignore the Passing Yards Against stat, which is SEVERELY inflated, our pass D has actually been very good this year. While we've given up 11 passing TDs on the season, 6 of those were in the final 2:29 of the 4th Quarter when we had large leads. Speaking of large leads - and stopping the run - MSU's opponents are averaging 44 passes a game. Why? A) They are playing catch up because we're ahead by double digits and B) We are totally stopping the run. I feel very good about the game riding on our secondary.
3. Start Fast: Kentucky is an improved team this season, although I probably wouldn't say they're "good" yet. This is still a game State "should" win, but you don't want to let UK hang around, either. Get a solid 14-17 point lead early and don't let their young team start believing they can play with us. That would be a bad formula on the road.
4. Mental Fortitude: As I talked about in the opening, we're now the hunted. There are expectations. We've had people telling the team all week how great they are. Lots of media interviews. Distractions upon distractions upon distractions. And to top it all off, you've got to go on the road for the first ever game as #1. We're going to see if this team can handle success as well as they've handled adversity. Can they go on the road and take care of business? Can they block out everything and focus on the game? Are they believing the press clippings or are they still trying to prove something? My gut says Dak Prescott, Benardrick McKinney, Ben Beckwith, Dillon Day, etc. won't let this be a problem. But it is definitely worth mentioning and keeping an eye on this Saturday.
That's what I think we need to do to walk out of Lexington with a win. Personally, I think we'll come out focused, hungry, and take care of business. Something to the tune of Dawgs 45 - WildCats 17.
In Mullen We Trust,