Bulldogs have little success against ranked opponents

By Gregg Ellis

Daily Journal

STARKVILLE – Saturday marks the third straight week Mississippi State faces a ranked opponent.

After battling Tennessee and West Virginia, the Bulldogs now turn their attention toward No. 14 Kentucky.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that the Bulldogs have lost 13 consecutive games to ranked foes and are 1-16 under Sylvester Croom, with the lone win coming against Florida in 2004 when the Gators were ranked No. 20.

Is there a pattern or a trend that Croom’s noticed when playing ranked teams? He says no.

“We’re still building a football team,” he said. “We’re playing teams already established.

“We’re not at the level those teams are. We’re still a work-in-progress.”

He did point out, however, that MSU was toe-to-toe with South Carolina and Tennessee going into the fourth quarter, meaning the gap is closing.

Sticky QB situation

n Croom is hoping he won’t have to play true freshman Chris Relf at quarterback this year. He doesn’t want to waste the redshirt.

However, he may not have a choice.

Michael Henig, who broke his hand at Auburn in the third game of the season, is listed as the backup but has encountered a few setbacks in recent weeks.

“He’s day-by-day,” Croom said. “He doesn’t feel the ball as well as he needs to feel it to throw with any degree of efficiency.”

That means if something should happen to Wesley Carroll, then Croom would have to turn to Relf or maybe Zack Harrington, a walk-on.

It’s a decision, he said, he won’t make until game time.

Still no picks

n Carroll enters this week’s game against the Wildcats with 109 pass attempts and no interceptions.

Limiting mistakes, he said, is something he works on every day in practice.

“Turnovers are morale killers,” the true freshman said. “They will kill you, like the LSU and West Virginia games. It’s tough to come back from turnovers.”

The Series

n Saturday marks the 35th meeting between UK and MSU, with the Wildcats holding a 20-14 advantage, including a 13-4 mark in Lexington.

While the two have split their last 10 outings, Kentucky has won two in a row and four of the last five. State’s last win at Commonwealth Stadium came in 2000, 35-17.

Bulldog bites

n MSU has not won three road games in the same season since 2000. … The Bulldogs are 18-24 in games aired by Lincoln Financial/Jefferson Pilot, 3-13 since 2001. … State’s 40.3 third-down conversion rate is eighth in the SEC. … It’s homecoming for Kentucky, the second time in as many weeks MSU has been a homecoming foe.