Kentucky Wildcats (1-5 SU, 2-4 ATS) vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs (3-3 SU, 3-3 ATS)
College Football Week 9
Date and Time: Thursday October 24th, 2013. 7:30PM Eastern
Where: Davis Wade Stadium Starkville, M.S.
by Jay, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Ky +9.5/MSU -9.5
Over/Under Total: 57
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Thursday night college football action returns to the SEC this week when the 1-5 Kentucky Wildcats roll into Starkville for a meeting with the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Interestingly neither opponent has captured a conference victory this year despite the fact the Bulldogs are currently treading the .500 mark at 3-3 SU on the season. In the Bulldogs previous two conference games, they lost a close game with Auburn and then went toe to toe with LSU before giving up 28 points in the 4th quarter in a 59-26 loss. Even though the Bulldogs are 0-2 in conference play they have been competitive in all outings and they will try to prove they are more than just a SEC bottom dweller under the lights in Stark Vegas.
Kentucky on the other hand may be the overwhelming favored candidate as being the weakest team in the SEC. The Wildcats have not held a lead in 16 consecutive quarters dating back to week 2 in their only win of the season over Miami (Ohio). Coach Mark Stoops has not found the winning formula in his first season as a head football coach. However Stoops cannot be blamed for the Wildcats' fiasco of a program. Stoops inherited a largely under talented team that won just 2 games a year ago. The biggest problem Stoops has faced is finding talent on the offensive side of the football. The Wildcats defense has been competitive but the offense has been horrible.
The Wildcats offense has averaged just 352 total yards per game which ranks 100th in the FBS. To make matters worse, the Wildcats have averaged just 20.3 points per game which is currently ranked 103rd in the FBS. Quarterback Jalen Whitlow was beginning to emerge as the clear starting quarterback of the offense before suffering a severely sprained ankle in Kentucky's last outing against Alabama. Even with a 'bye' last week, Whitlow is still questionable to return this Thursday against the Bulldogs. Whitlow is a dual threat quarterback that can really help the offense become more dangerous. Therefore if he is unable to go, it will certainly be another blow to an already struggling offense. QB Maxwell Smith started the season as the number 1 guy behind center but has not exactly excelled in the passing game. Smith has only thrown 1 pick this season but has also completed just 54% passing and averaged a measly 158 passing yards with each start. Additionally Smith does not maintain the dual threat capability of his counterpart which makes him a bit easier to defend. Therefore it will be really interesting to see how Whitlow's injury progresses throughout the week and to see which quarterback is behind center with the first snap on offense this Thursday night.
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On the other side of the ball, Mississippi State's offense has been a bit inconsistent from a season standpoint. However, the Bulldogs have the talent to move the football effectively. Just look at the LSU game. Senior QB Tyler Russell has started behind center for Dan Mullen's Bulldogs the last few years but missed some time earlier this season with a concussion. In the interim sophomore QB Dak Prescott has emerged as a legitimate dual threat behind center. Prescott leads the Bulldogs in rushing with 457 yards on the ground and 8 touchdowns despite struggling a bit throwing the football. As a result, Mullen has turned to a two quarterback rotation with both Russell and Prescott. Kentucky's defense has struggled against mobile quarterbacks this season so it will be interesting to see if the Wildcats' defense has an answer for both quarterbacks in primetime this Thursday.
Jay's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I really do not like a play on the side in this game as the Bulldogs look like the obvious pick laying the 9.5 points. However Kentucky's defense has played better than the numbers suggest. If that defense steps it up a notch this Thursday, Kentucky may find themselves in contention. I believe the under 57 is the best play in this game in what will be a rather ugly offensive performance by both teams.
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