Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead brings his undefeated Bulldogs to the Commonwealth this week to face Mark Stoops and the 3-0 Wildcats of the University of Kentucky. Here’s everything that you need to know about the Cats’ offensive attack.
Kentucky brings a rushing-favored offense to the field. Like the Bulldogs, Kentucky has had three rushers account for at least a hundred yards in a game. The big name on that side of the football is of course tailback Benny Snell. Snell has 375 yards this season on 62 carries (6.0 YPR). Snell stirred the pot with MSU fans and players by claiming he can and will “run it on anybody” when asked about this week’s matchup. The trigger man for the Wildcats is a new face. Terry Wilson is a sophomore out of Oklahoma City. He’s accounted for most of the offense, but he’s yet to throw for 165 yards this season. He is reminiscent of a younger Nick Fitzgerald, except quicker. However, he’s not as big and powerful. He’s racked up 223 rushing yards through three games. Wilson is an electric runner, but his passing leaves little to be desired as he’s thrown for only 393 yards with three interceptions. He seems unable to get past the first or second read, and he’s likely to tuck it and run the ball if he can’t immediately find a receiver. The receiver he looks for most often is Lynn Bowden, a former four-star athlete out of Ohio. Bowden leads the team with 17 catches for 185 yards. Another name to watch for David Bouvier. He only has 5 catches, but two of them are for touchdowns and he’s averaging over 18 yards per reception. The offensive line has given up 4 sacks through three games, and as a team, UK is averaging 6.88 yards per rush.
As we’ve made clear: this is a rushing team. 62% of their plays are on the ground. Unfortunately for them, Mississippi State is a team that thrives on stopping the run. The Bulldogs allow just 2.5 yards per attempt. Kentucky looks to capitalize on big plays from both Snell and Wilson, especially with Wilson improvising and using his legs to pick up big yardage. But MSU hasn’t allowed a run of more than 18 yards all season, and every run of more than fifteen yards except one came when the games were in-hand. They haven’t given up a bunch of sacks, but that’s as much on Wilson as it is their guys up front. Also, they haven’t faced a defensive front like they’re going to see on Saturday. Their marquee victory, in which they defeated Dan Mullen’s Florida Gators, came against a front seven that isn’t as heralded as the one Moorhead boasts, which features future first-rounders next season and for years to come. This is also an offense that has suffered 8 fumbles and 3 interceptions. Although turnovers aren’t our strong suit, I can see us getting a couple Saturday against the shaky ball-protection skills of Kentucky. A very important note is the difference between their first and second half performances so far this season. Coach Stoops is doing a great job when it comes to making adjustments, and an abysmal first-half UK team looks like a new being during every second half so far. It’s important we’re ready for the second half attack, and also key that we put separation between us and the opponent early ni in the game. Long story short—Kentucky has a pretty decent team. Playing anywhere in the SEC on the road is no easy task. But I don’t think they’ve beaten anybody (I’m not high on Florida), and I don’t think they can hang with the Bulldogs. Their strengths on offense do not match up well with our strengths on defense, and this is a rivalry which Mississippi State has dominated for the past nine years. I like the Dawgs to win by a somewhat large margin on the road Saturday.