Every season seems to have one of those games. The passes that are a foot behind the receiver get dropped, the hand on the ankle doesn’t bring down the opposing ball carrier, maybe the bus got stuck in traffic on the way to the stadium. For whatever reason, pretty much every team has a game when it just isn’t their day.

For Kentucky in 2021, that game came against Mississippi State. The Wildcats went to Starkville, Miss., off a tough but understandable loss to Georgia. They were 6-1 and 12th in the nation. QB Will Levis had made almost no mistakes in Athens, Ga., getting Kentucky into the end zone twice against a defense that didn’t allow many scores to anybody. But in Starkville, Kentucky laid an egg.

Levis threw 3 interceptions, one a red-zone pick late in the first half. Chris Rodriguez lost a fumble. UK’s secondary forced just 3 incomplete passes in 39 Will Rogers passing attempts. Kentucky took a 10-0 lead early, but took a 31-17 loss that was probably uglier than the score.

A year later, could the opponent that gave Levis his biggest headache become the source of his redemption in 2022?

Kentucky entered 2022 with heavy expectations, largely on the basis of senior QB Levis, widely projected to be a 1st-round draft pick, and Rodriguez, who rushed for 1,379 yards a season ago. Halfway through the Wildcats’ season, the 2 have shared the field for just 24 snaps.

Levis missed Kentucky’s 24-14 loss to South Carolina (this year’s Kentucky down game?) with some manner of foot injury. Rodriguez missed the first 4 games of the season with a suspension that was not fully explained. So when Rodriguez began rounding into form again last Saturday against the Gamecocks, with 126 rushing yards, Levis was watching from the sideline.

A week later, is it finally time for UK to unveil the Levis/Rodriguez tandem and take back momentum for the season?

It is likely Levis still will be impacted by the injury Saturday. He wore a walking boot last Saturday, but seemed to suggest he’d be ready for Mississippi State. Kentucky has an off week after the game, so while the UK coaches would doubtlessly love to give Levis another week to rest and heal, it might be a luxury no longer in the cards after the South Carolina loss.

Kentucky’s loss to South Carolina was harmful because it would have left Kentucky at least 5-2 heading to their bye week, with a likely 8-win season and still holding a shot at 9-3, and that’s not even considering a potential win against Mississippi State. Instead, Kentucky is 4-2 and a touchdown underdog at home. Fall to 4-3 and after the break Kentucky plays at Tennessee. A 4-4 Kentucky team would then have to go to Missouri for a game that could spell the difference between a disappointing season and complete disappointment. Because Georgia lurks in UK’s final SEC game, Kentucky certainly wants 6 wins in hand – if not more – before hosting Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs.

All of this makes the Mississippi State game a big opportunity for Kentucky. Mike Leach’s Bulldogs allow 4.49 yards a carry, 12th in the SEC. Meanwhile, Kentucky’s pass defense has been excellent, holding opponents to 174 yards a game, allowing just 53 percent passing with 3 touchdowns and 5 interceptions.

If Levis can play, Rodriguez can probably pick up where he left off and churn out important yards on the ground. With Levis, Kentucky’s big-play passing game might have more mojo than Mississippi State’s dangerous ball-control scheme. Kentucky’s 9.4 yards per pass attempt (including last week) is 2nd in the SEC, while State’s 7.4 is 9th best.

Adding things up, Kentucky has a shot to reclaim its season after a troubling loss. Levis has a chance to write a comeback story, and UK football could get back into the SEC mix, if not exactly in the driver’s seat. One thing is for sure – there’s plenty riding on Kentucky’s performance Saturday night.