5 players to watch when Mississippi State hosts Kentucky
You could argue that, at this point in the season, every SEC game is a “must-win” affair.
Even by the toughest of standards, Kentucky’s visit to Mississippi State on Saturday night (7:30 ET, SECN) certainly qualifies.
The Bulldogs are coming off back-to-back non-conference wins over Troy and Louisiana Tech, and with two losses already in SEC play — one of which was to still-unbeaten LSU — they really can’t afford to give any more ground in the league standings.
Kentucky, even after a narrow home loss to Auburn last Thursday, is still in a decent position in the SEC East race. The Wildcats have two league losses and, like Georgia and Tennessee, are in pursuit of one-loss Florida.
The Gators are still in the driver’s seat, but there is plenty of football left to be played.
So, both teams need a win.
Let’s have a look at five players that could have a hand in making sure the Bulldogs are celebrating a victory on Saturday night:
1. QB Dak Prescott — The senior quarterback continues to rewrite the MSU record book with each passing game. In last week’s win, he accounted for 4 total touchdowns and threw for 347 yards to lead the rally against Louisiana Tech. In last season’s 45-31 win over Kentucky in Lexington, Prescott produced 304 yards of total offense as the Bulldogs held on to their No. 1 ranking. He’s 2nd in the league in yards and tied for 3rd in touchdown passes. And he’s yet to throw an interception in 225 attempts this season.
2. RB Ashton Shumpert — Anytime you look at a team’s depth chart and see “or,” you know that the coaches are having trouble separating players at a position. For the Bulldogs at running back, there are four players listed in the two deep, and the word “or” appears twice. Shumpert is back atop the depth chart after missing last week’s game with a sore back, sharing an “or” with Brandon Holloway. Dontavian Lee “or” Aeris Williams completes the chart, and the truth is none of them have distinguished themselves as the heir to Josh Robinson next to Prescott in the backfield. Robinson had 198 yards in last year’s win over Kentucky. I get the feeling coach Dan Mullen would be elated with a third of that production from Shumpert “or” one of his teammates.
3. WR De’Runnya Wilson — Wilson has been playing well lately. He had 7 catches for 85 yards and 2 scores last week, and he leads the Bulldogs in receiving yards (433) and touchdowns (5). He had 2 catches for 30 yards in the last meeting between these two teams, and he’ll be looking to have a better day this time around.
4. LB Richie Brown — Brown leads the Bulldogs in tackles with 61 and is 2nd on the team in sacks (3.5) and 3rd in tackles for loss (5). The junior from Long Beach, Miss., had 7 stops against Louisiana Tech last week and had 4 tackles in last year’s game against the Wildcats.
5. LB J.T. Gray — Gray has yet to start a game this season but still ranks 3rd on the team with 38 tackles, including a team-high 10 last week. With the recent injury to Dez Harris, Gray could be in line for some more playing time the rest of the season.