By Logan Lowery
STARKVILLE – When two teams meet on an annual basis, it’s only natural that a bit of a rivalry ensues.
Mississippi State and Kentucky have met each year since 1990, when the two SEC programs became constant interdivisional opponents.
“It seems weird because every year I’ve been here we’ve played Kentucky, and that’s our East crossover,” said MSU coach Dan Mullen. “I know our guys look forward to this game and treat it a little bit as a rivalry game for us.”
The Bulldogs have gotten the better end of it lately, going 14-9 against UK since the two began playing on an annual basis. The Wildcats still lead the series, 21-19, with the last five matchups being decided by an average of eight points.
Mullen is 4-0 against Kentucky during his tenure at State, winning three of those meetings on the road. Mullen claimed his only victory against the Wildcats in Starkville 24-17 in 2010.
But this year’s Kentucky team is a bit different. The Wildcats parted ways with Joker Phillips after 23 seasons on the staff, the last three as head coach, and hired former Arizona and Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops to take over.
So far the Wildcats are 1-5 overall and 0-3 in the SEC. Their lone win came against Miami of Ohio, 41-7 on Sept. 7.
“Obviously it’s new staff and a new philosophy on both sides of the football,” Mullen said. “Mark took over and you see them really buying in to what he’s trying to do. The win-loss results might not total what you’re accomplishing on the field, but when you watch their team they are accomplishing an awful lot. They are playing hard for four quarters, buying into their system, and you see a lot of growth and development on a very young football team.”