Kentucky Football: 3 keys to Wildcats beating Mississippi State

Kentucky's Chris Rodriguez Jr
Kentucky's Chris Rodriguez Jr /
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The Kentucky football team is back on the gridiron on Saturday making its way down to Starkville, Mississippi for a pivotal Southeastern Conference matchup.

It’s the battle of the conference’s East and West teams that has major implications on how the Wildcats finish. A loss doesn’t tarnish the season as I predicted this team would go 10-2, but a win solidifies at least 10 wins and possibly 11.

Currently, WynnBet has the Kentucky football team just a slight 1 point favorite with the over/under at 47 points.

Big Blue has a game the following week at home against Tennessee which figures to be Kentucky’s toughest remaining game followed by Vanderbilt, New Mexico State, and Louisville completing the regular season.

Kentucky football and Mark Stoops haven’t had much success in Starkville

The confines of Davis Wade Stadium At Scott Field have not been kind when UK has visited, in fact, the last time they left with a win was in 2008 by a score of 14-13 on a failed extra point with Rich Brooks and Sylvester “Sly” Croom coaching their squads.

Kentucky has won the last three games in Lexington while Mark Stoops has not been able to claim a win in Starkville.

Stoops spoke to the media on Monday about what Kentucky will be in store for this time around.

"” Going on the road to Mississippi State in Mike Leach’s second year and we know it will be a real challenge. They have done some very good things this year in all phases. Offensively this year, it is really no surprise to anybody to see the improvement. With Mike, that is no surprise, that’s to be expected. We all know the kind of quality football coach he is. But you continue to see a very, very strong defense as well that presents a lot of problems and the same with special teams. They are a complete football team.”"

The Wildcats sit in second place in the SEC East with a two-game lead over Florida and Tennessee and looking to hopefully finish third overall in the conference if that other team from the Magnolia State, Ole Miss, can suffer a conference loss. UK and Ole Miss each have one defeat this year.

Kentucky simply just has to take care of its own business and beat Mike Leach and his air raid offense Saturday night.

There are always many things that need to happen for a team to win, but let’s look at three key components.

No. 1 Kentucky must convert better on third down

Moving the sticks is vital to a team’s offensive success. You can’t score points if you don’t convert third downs which contribute to huge momentum swings throughout the game.

If Kentucky is successful they will have to do so toning out that deafening and annoying cowbells ringing.

Make the first down and they quit ringing, fail to do so and they only get louder and louder as the Bulldogs will then get the ball back.

Kentucky football’s success rate this year is 37 of 81 (45.6 percent) and 3 of 6 on fourth down. Mississippi State has only allowed teams to convert 34 of 98 (34.6 percent). Opponents have converted 4 of 8 fourth-down tries.

Josh Ali is back practicing and expected to play which should be a huge key to better success, and quarterback Will Levis needs to spread things around to his receivers, tight ends, backs, and anywhere Wan’Dale Robinson lines up.

In comparison, Kentucky’s defense has only allowed its opponents to cash in on 38 of 96 third downs (39.5 percent) and just 4 of 9 on fourth down.