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October 6, 2012

Young quarterbacks will play as Cats host Bulldogs

KENTUCKY (1-4, 0-2 SEC)
Coach: Joker Phillips
Record: 12-18 (4-14 SEC) in three seasons at UK, overall
Last game: South Carolina 38, Kentucky 17
Next game: at Arkansas, Oct. 13
Roster | Depth chart
Coach: Dan Mullen
Record: 25-17 (10-15 SEC) in four seasons at MSU and overall
Last game: Mississippi State 30, South Alabama 10
Next game: Tennessee, Oct. 13
Roster | Depth chart
Game/Series Information
Game Information
Site: Commonwealth Stadium (67,942)
TV: SEC Network (Dave Neal play-by-play, Andre Ware analyst, Cara Capuano sideline)
Radio: UK IMG Sports Network (Tom Leach play-by-play, Jeff Piecoro analysis; Dick Gabriel sideline); Sirius channel 92; XM channel 198
Internet: Audio | Video
Favorite: Mississippi State by 10

Series Information:
Series record: Kentucky leads 21-18
At Lexington: Kentucky leads 12-7
Coaches' records:Phillips 0-2 vs. Mississippi State; Mullen 3-0 vs. UK

Last meeting
Mississippi State 28, Kentucky 16 (Oct. 29, 2011, in Lexington)
Starting quarterback Morgan Newton went down with an ankle injury in the first quarter and didn't return, forcing true freshman Maxwell Smith into action. He finished 26-for-33 for 174 yards, but he fell short in a fourth quarter comeback bid. Kentucky forced three turnovers and had none of their own, but Mississippi State's 21-6 halftime lead was too much to overcome.

Keys to the Game
1. Picking Season: True freshman quarterbacks Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles will have to be wary of the Mississippi State secondary. Senior defensive backs Darius Slay and Johnthan Banks have combined for seven interceptions through four games for Mississippi State. Winning with true freshmen is difficult for any offense, but it's doable if they don't turn the ball over. It's a fine line; a single interception could rattle the youngsters and swing momentum to the Bulldogs.

2. Over and Above: Mullen's offense will always be built around a brutal rushing attack, but he has one of the best deep threats in the nation. Senior wide receiver Chad Bumphis is averaging 22.6 yards per reception, best in the SEC among players with 10 or more catches. He has just 12 catches in four games, but five of those have gone for touchdowns. The Wildcats' secondary will have to keep an eye on him every play or risk a big play.

3. Run Down: At precisely the time when Kentucky couldn't spare to lose another key offensive player, tailback CoShik Williams was lost for the season. With Josh Clemons out, UK is left with only three tailbacks who aren't redshirting. Jonathan George and Raymond Sanders have averaged 5.9 yards per carry this season, but that was with Smith opening up the offense. It will be an entirely new task for them to carry the offense with two inexperienced quarterbacks.

Staff Predictions
Ben Jones, Staff Writer: Mississippi State 31, Kentucky 10
It was a win against Mississippi State in 2006 that helped Rich Brooks right the ship years ago, but don't count on the same this weekend. Rotating a pair of freshman quarterbacks is a recipe for destruction. This might have looked like a winnable game in August, but it isn't anymore. The Bulldogs should beat the Wildcats for the fifth time in six games since that 2006 meeting.

T.J. Walker, Staff Writer: Mississippi State 38, Kentucky 14 When will the Wildcats catch a break? Not Saturday. If there was ever a way to lose a game before the game was played, UK found it. It was bad news after bad news this week, as the injuries continued to pile up. UK will start Jalen Whitlow, who had a tale of two halves against South Carolina, but don't expect him to win or lose the game for the Cats. The Bulldogs love to pound the ball and UK's rush defense has been getting pounded all season. That won't change Saturday.

Aaron Smith, Staff Writer: Mississippi State 24, Kentucky 10 For a 4-0 team ranked No. 20 in the nation, I'm not sure what to make of the Bulldogs. They won 28-10 at home against Auburn - solid - and 30-24 at Troy - not so great. Problem is, I don't know what to make of Kentucky, prepared to play two freshman quarterbacks, either. With Maxwell Smith, I'd pick an upset. Without him, I don't see the offense doing much.

Brett Dawson, Publisher: Mississippi State 28, Kentucky 17
This was a logical (and popular) preseason choice for Kentucky's best bet at springing an upset this season, but plenty has changed since then. The Bulldogs aren't great, but they're an effective running team facing a UK squad that struggles to stop anyone. And the Wildcats will throw two untested quarterbacks to the wolves. Maybe Kentucky still finds a way here - games against Mississippi State typically have been close - but it seems like a longer shot than it once did.



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