Generally speaking, SEC teams are high-profile enough to keep their games on Saturday. However, both Mississippi State and Kentucky find themselves in the lower third of the nation’s most recently dominant conference through the midway point of the 2013 season. The weekend starts on Thursday for both teams in Starkville, and the outcome could very well determine the fate of Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen.
Will his struggling, 3-3 team be able to get over .500 on the year with a win over the 1-5 Wildcats?
Their chances in front of their cowbell-banging fans rely almost exclusively upon the arms and legs of sophomore Dak Prescott. Mullen was expected to have the luxury of relying upon two seniors to lead the way in 2013 in quarterback Tyler Russell and running back LaDarius Perkins. Instead, Prescott has been asked to do both.
Russell went down with a concussion against Oklahoma State to open the year and since has only played intermittently. Perkins rushed for 1,024 yards as a junior, but has only managed 273 in five games thus far in 2013.
Then there’s Prescott. He went over 100 yards rushing against both Auburn and LSU earlier this season and boasts 457 yards on the year, to go along with 890 passing yards. Can he do so again, against a Kentucky defense that is giving up an average of 5.06 rushing yards per attempt?
Or will Mark Stoops finally begin to show why he was brought to Lexington as the Wildcats’ first-year head coach? Formerly the defensive coordinator at Florida State, Stoops has been advertised as a defensive mastermind.
Linebacker Josh Forrest is the only player on Kentucky to have even recorded an interception, with one. Kentucky’s 12 total sacks are good for No. 74 in the entire nation.
If Stoops’ “D” can’t rattle around Prescott, who seems to be Mullens’ only weapon offensively, can an offense that has only broken the 30-point barrier one time (and against Miami of Ohio at that) actually step up?
That depends upon whether or not Stoops knows who’ll be playing under center. Jalen Whitlow is still recovering from an ankle injury, which limits his threat as a runner. Maxwell Smith is expected to start, but his big arm is negated by his notoriously inaccurate passing. The 6-foot-4, 218-pound Smith is completing a mere 55.4-percent of his attempts this season after compiling a far better 68.7-percent a year ago.
The Bulldogs’ defense has tallied an even worse eight total sacks on the year.
Can Smith take the time he needs to complete his throws – and potentially pull off the road upset? Stoops has created positive momentum on the recruiting trail in his first year, now can he impress some of those prep stars with a big-time, nationally televised victory over an SEC opponent?
Or will Mullen once again move his squad above the .500-mark with a much-need conference victory?
We have no idea what the answers to these questions are, but perhaps you do.