Scouting report: Kentucky football faces Mississippi State on Saturday


Kentucky Wildcats running back Benny Snell Jr. (26) is tackled during the game against Murray State on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky defeated Murray 48-10. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Braden Ramsey

Saturday marks one of the biggest games of the season for Kentucky football, as No. 14 Mississippi State comes to town for a late-night contest at Kroger Field in UK’s SEC home opener. The Cats are looking to start a season 4-0 for the first time since 2008, and even up the all-time series with the Bulldogs.

Joe Moorhead is in his first season in Starkville, replacing current Florida head coach Dan Mullen. He won National Offensive Coordinator of the Year back-to-back years at Penn State before coming to the Bulldogs, and has led the team to three straight wins to open the year.

Dual-threat quarterback Nick Fitzgerald is back for his final season, the third he’ll spend as the starter. He broke his ankle in the Egg Bowl— the annual game between Mississippi State and Ole Miss— last year, and after a one-game suspension, made his return against Kansas State. He went 11/27 for 154 yards and two touchdowns, with 159 yards on the ground from just 19 carries added in.

Sophomore Kylin Hill was a popular breakout candidate for the Bulldogs this year, and he has lived up to the billing so far. He had 17 carries for a whopping 215 yards and two touchdowns against K-State two weeks ago, and is averaging 9.2 yards per tote on the season.

Combining a brilliant play caller like Moorhead with an all-around talented offense has allowed the Bulldogs to create a potent offense matching its dominant defense.

Montez Sweat and Jeffery Simmons both return for another year to anchor the defensive line, which has all four starters from last season back. The senior end and junior tackle are the first First-Team All-SEC duo to return the next season, and both preseason All-Americans are expected to be high NFL draft picks.

The performance of the Bulldogs front has been stellar, as they allow only 85 rushing yards per game, ranking 13th in the country. The Wildcats offense averages over 282 yards per game, which is 11th in the nation. In this battle of strength on strength, something has got to give, and the unit that stands tall throughout the game should propel its team to victory.

The Mississippi State-Kentucky game can be seen at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN2.