SEC Best Bet: Kentucky vs. Mississippi
Kentucky Wildcats (4-0 SU, 3-1 ATS) vs. Mississippi Rebels (4-0 SU, 2-2 ATS)
When: Saturday, October 1, Noon
Where: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Oxford, Miss.
Point Spread: UK +6.5/MISS -6.5
Total: O/U 54.5
A pair of overlooked SEC teams face off in this matchup, as Kentucky and Mississippi have quietly each won their first four games of the season. Both have a road win to their names to this point, although Kentucky’s is probably a little more impressive given that it came against Florida while Mississippi pounded the daylights out of Georgia Tech. Almost nobody expects either one to make it to Atlanta, but the fact is that one of these teams will be 5-0 after this game and have a real shot to lock up bowl eligibility well before the season is fully halfway over.
Neither team looked impressive last week, making this a tough one to predict. Both tend to favor one form of attack over the other (Kentucky the pass, Mississippi the run), and both have produced solid numbers on the defensive side of the ball. Whichever team is able to play to its strengths is likely to emerge victorious here.
How the Public is Betting the Kentucky/Mississippi Game
This is going to pit the public against the sharps, as 67% of tickets have come in on Kentucky for this game. The money has pushed the spread toward Mississippi, as the line has gone from -6 to -6.5 for the Rebels. The total has ticked down from 55.5 to 54.5.
Defensive end Sam Anaele (undisclosed) is questionable. Running back Ramon Jefferson (knee) is out.
Wide receiver Jaylon Robinson (undisclosed) is questionable. Kicker Caden Costa (suspended) is out.
When Kentucky Has the Ball
Will Levis has really looked good throwing the ball this season, which is a big step compared to last season. Levis has kind of had to put the Wildcats on his back because Kentucky’s running game really hasn’t been anything special to this point in the season. Mississippi has proven fairly strong against the pass to this point in the season, but the Rebels also haven’t faced a really good passing attack to this point in the season. Kentucky really commits to the pass, and the Wildcats can afford to do it because Tayvion Robinson and Dane Key have done a great job getting behind the defense and making big plays happen.
Kentucky has a quality back in Kavosiey Smoke, but the Wildcats give up on the run a little bit quickly and opt to put the game in Levis’ hands reasonably early into their contests. The Rebels’ defense hasn’t yet shown that they can stop a good offensive attack, but there’s no guarantee that Kentucky is going to take a shot at the ground game in this battle. The Wildcats are likely to look to pass and dare the Rebels to try to stop them.
When Mississippi Has the Ball
Without Matt Corral, Mississippi has turned into a running team, as Quinshon Judkins and Zach Evans have ripped through the Rebels’ first four opponents. Both backs are averaging more than six yards per carry, and along with touchdown specialist Ulysses Bentley (four touchdowns on 14 carries), the Rebels have built a pretty strong ground game.
That’s not to say that Mississippi can’t pass, but the Rebels tend to only pass when they need to, as opposed to taking to the skies as options A, B, and C when they had Corral under center. Lane Kiffin doesn’t seem to want to put too much responsibility on the shoulders of Jaxson Dart, but he recognizes that he has some quality weapons in Jonathan Mingo and Malik Heath. Mississippi will attack when necessary through the air, which might be a fair amount given that Kentucky is handling the ground game pretty well to this point. Granted, the Wildcats had the benefit of facing Youngstown State and Miami-Ohio in that stretch, but they have still allowed a mere 108.3 yards per game on the ground. Mississippi hasn’t seen a team as good as Kentucky to this point, and it remains to be seen how the Rebels handle it if they get pushed by a team that’s capable of standing up to them.
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There’s no trend to track between these teams because they play so infrequently. The last time these schools faced each other in Oxford was 2010, as the SEC’s unbalanced division schedule means that teams that are in different divisions only face off twice every 12 years under normal circumstances. One trend that you have been able to track is Mississippi consistently having their offense overestimated, as the Rebels have played to the under in 11 of their last 12 games and six straight SEC matchups.
Meanwhile, Kentucky plays up to its competition. The Wildcats are 5-1-1 ATS overall, but in their past 32 matchups with teams who have winning records, they’ve gone 23-7-2 ATS. Mississippi has also played up to its competition, going 11-5-1 ATS in its past 17 games. However, the Rebels are just 1-4 ATS in their past five games in Oxford.
Summer is hanging around for a little while in Oxford, with the temperature sitting at around 77 degrees at kickoff. Wind will blow at eight miles to the north-northwest, and no precipitation is forecasted.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread
I’m really not buying Mississippi at this point. The Rebels have played absolutely nobody to this point, and even though I’m not sold on the Florida team that Kentucky beat, the Gators are a lot better than anyone that the Rebels have seen to this point.
There’s a chance that the wrong team is favored in this game. I’m not going to go crazy and back Kentucky to win the game straight up in Oxford, but this line seems to be far too disrespectful to the Wildcats. I’ll back Kentucky and the points in this one.