Today’s game: No. 20 MSU (4-0, 1-0 SEC) at Kentucky (1-4, 0-2), 11:21 a.m., SEC Network (Dave Neal play-by-play, Andre Ware analyst, Cara Capuano sideline), XM 201, Sirius 94.
LEXINGTON, Ky. | Back to work.
The Bulldogs are seeking their first 5-0 start since 1999, and trying to extend a win streak that – going back to last season – is currently six games. That ties the longest streak under Dan Mullen, who led State to six in a row during the 2010 season.
He has won three in a row over Kentucky, which is MSU’s permanent Eastern Division opponent. This is the second consecutive season these teams have met here at Commonwealth Stadium, a by-product of the reconfigured scheduling the SEC had to do after adding Missouri and Texas A&M to the fold.
The Bulldogs are looking to put together a complete game, which Mullen has said he hasn’t seen yet.
“Nobody’s satisfied, nobody’s in there dancing around, happy, excited,” senior safety Corey Broomfield said. “We don’t play to win, we play to play your best. And so far we haven’t played our best, but we’ve been able to win. Hopefully we play our best and win, but we want to see what we really look like playing at our best with all cylinders firing.”
Guess who’s dressed out today? Sophomore defensive lineman P.J. Jones (Tupelo), who was suspended the first four games for an unspecified violation of team rules. Also, tight end Malcolm Johnson, who’s missed the first four games with a pectoral injury, is here but not dressed out.
• Remember to follow me on Twitter for updates during and after the game, and don’t forget to visit the Journal’s college football page to keep up with what’s happening around the country. Now let’s take a glance at MSU’s three keys to victory, as found in our GameDay section.
1. Confuse the QBs. Kentucky will play two freshman at quarterback today, Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles. Whitlow has some experience, having played most of last week’s game versus South Carolina.
Towles has yet to play, but he was the more highly touted player coming out of high school. With starter Maxwell Smith going down with an ankle injury last week, Towles becomes the backup, and coaches have decided to pull his redshirt to beef up a thin position.
MSU, with a deep and experienced front seven, will make an effort to mix up its looks and force the QBs into quick decisions. As linebacker Cam Lawrence said, “intimidation, it’s gonna be coming.”
2. Start fast. Kentucky jumped out to a 17-7 halftime lead on No. 6 South Carolina last week but couldn’t keep it up in the second half. If the Wildcats can do that today, it will test MSU in a way it hasn’t been tested often this season.
The Bulldogs have rarely trailed, and in their lone road game trailed for only a few minutes early on at Troy. This is MSU’s first SEC road game, so it’s already going to be a test, especially for the many young players.
3. Be consistent. The offense struggled in the first quarter against South Alabama, and the previous week against Troy it went quiet for a long stretch of the second half. At various times this season, State has had dropped passes, missed field goals and subpar passing from Tyler Russell.
With eight consecutive games coming up – seven of them SEC contests – MSU needs to start looking like the high-powered offensive team it was pitched as in the preseason. There have been plenty of flashes of that potential, but it’s yet to come together for four quarters.
• Notable stat: Mullen is 4-1 in road games versus Eastern Division foes, with two of those wins coming here.
• Weather: The Weather Channel app tells me that it’s gonna be pushing 50 degrees by kickoff, with temps steadily climbing into the mid-50s. Mostly clear skies, very little chance of rain. In other words, perfect football weather.