Mississippi St. vs Kentucky Overview (10/15/22 @ 7:30 PM EST.)
Line: Mississippi State (-4.5)
Mississippi St vs Kentucky Breakdown and Betting Odds
It doesn’t get more exhilarating than an SEC matchup between two ranked opponents when the Mississippi St. Bulldogs take their 5-1 record on the road to Kroger Field to take on the 4-2 Kentucky Wildcats. The Bulldogs come into Week 7 with a 40-17 destruction of Arkansas while the Wildcats lost 24-14 to South Carolina.
Mississippi St. Analysis
In a plot twist, Mississippi St. entered the season unranked in the AP Top 25 Preseason rankings and now find themselves 16th after their sound victory over Arkansas. The Bulldogs have now won three in a row after beating Saturday’s win, taking out Texas A&M and Bowling Green prior to that. Their only loss of the season was to 22nd-ranked LSU, which they lost on the road in Louisiana. A fourth win in a row, especially to a tough Kentucky team from the SEC, will only solidify the Bulldogs’ case in the Top 25 moving forward. Mississippi St. has also gone 4-1-1 against the spread thus far and is 4-2 on the over and under through six games.
So, how did the Bulldogs get here? In short: offense. More specifically, it’s the super-efficient passing game, which is ranked fifth nationally with 354.7 yards per game through the air. On the season, the team’s 22 TD passes are second in the nation behind Ohio State’s 25. Mississippi St. also has a gritty defense, ranking 39th overall nationally by giving up 21 points a contest, including only 221.1 yards passing a game, good for 58th overall. The Bulldogs’ secondary has done a tremendous job making life difficult for opposing QBs as their 13th in the nation with eight interceptions already.
The man at the forefront of the passing game is none other than Mississippi St. quarterback Will Rogers who broke the all-time record for completions Saturday afternoon after throwing his 922nd completion en route to 395 yards passing and three touchdowns. That brings Rogers’ season numbers to 2,110 yards passing on the year with a 22/3 touchdown to interception ratio along with an exceptional 71.6% completion rate. Helping Rogers on offense is a backfield led by Dillon Johnson who has rushed for 402 yards, good for 6 yards per carry.
Kentucky started the 2022 season with four wins in a row, including their biggest victory of the year, a 26-16 road win over Florida in Gainesville. After two losses in a row, however, Kentucky’s preseason AP ranking of 20th is looking now like it doesn’t match the team’s success. While the Wildcats remain ranked (22nd in this week’s AP Top 25 poll), they dropped nine spots from being 13th last week before losing at home to the Gamecocks. Despite losing their last two, Kentucky is still solid against the spread at 4-2 this season although their 1-5 record versus over/under leaves a lot to be desired.
Last week’s loss was disappointing but not surprising when you take into account the fact that the Wildcats were without starting QB Will Levis, who spent the afternoon watching from the sidelines with a foot injury. While his status for Saturday’s contest is still up in the air, head coach Mark Stoops told the audience on his daily radio show that Levis was “day to day.” They’ll need him because he’s a big reason the Wildcats are ranked 43rd in passing offense nationally, with Levis tossing 12 TDs and only four picks.
What Kentucky does well is keep opposing QBs honest as they’re holding teams to 174.2 yards per contest, good for 16th in the nation. Perhaps their most impressive stat on defense is they’ve only allowed three passing touchdowns through six games, second-best overall. While their rushing defense isn’t as good as their ability to stop the pass, they’re no pushovers against the run, holding teams to 133 yards per game on the ground. Kentucky certainly doesn’t have the offense of Mississippi St. but they have the better defense.
Free Pick +4.5 Kentucky
Of course, this is predicated on Levis returning for the game even if he isn’t 100% healthy, it’s better than the backup against a team like Mississippi St. Here’s the thing: these teams have alternated wins and losses the last six times they’ve played with the Bulldogs winning last year. Oh, one more important tidbit: the home team has won the last seven contests and this one will be at Kroger Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky. The Bulldogs have a great passing offense but Kentucky’s strength is its secondary and they shouldn’t be overlooked here. We’re picking Kentucky +4.5.