By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
After a week off to get healthy and refocused, Mississippi State is set to take on a heavy dose of SEC competition.
The No. 20 Bulldogs (4-0, 1-0 SEC) are back in action this weekend at Kentucky (1-4, 0-2), opening a stretch in which they’ll play seven league games over eight weeks, with a date against Middle Tennessee State thrown in.
Ole Miss (3-2, 0-1) has already begun its tough stretch, losing 33-14 to No. 1 Alabama on Saturday. All seven of the Rebels’ remaining games are against SEC teams, and they’re back home this week to take on Texas Aamp&M.
As Ole Miss tries to get back on track, MSU tries to resume its hot start, which hasn’t been without issues. The last two wins, over Troy and South Alabama, saw lapses on both sides of the ball.
Coach Dan Mullen addressed those issues in practices last week.
“Not just the older guys but the younger guys, it was understanding how hard we expect everybody to go all the time,” Mullen said. “And I think we got that cleaned up with some of the guys, and what our expectations are from top to bottom.”
Mullen hopes his players understand that while Kentucky is struggling, it will be no pushover. All he has to do is point to how tough the Wildcats played South Carolina in Saturday’s 38-17 loss.
“You watched them (Saturday) night against a top-six team, we’re going to have our hands full,” Mullen said. “South Carolina had their hands full. If (Kentucky) could have scored right before the half, it could have been a different game.”
Kentucky played two quarterbacks on Saturday. Starter Maxwell Smith was injured early, so freshman Jalen Whitlow came in, completing 12 of 23 passes for 114 yards
Smith’s status for this week isn’t known, so MSU must prepare for two different styles of quarterbacks. Whitlow is the better runner.
“Kentucky is another spread team that is going to try to spread you out with the zone-read and option football,” Mullen said. “So our guys have to be sound and play hard on the defensive side.”