The Kentucky Wildcats (1-2) picked up their first win of the season on Saturday as the shut out Mike Leach’s Mississippi State Bulldogs. They face the Tennessee Vols (2-1) who lost on the road at Georgia. Here are the three keys to a Kentucky win.
By Steve Wright
There’s the defense
What a difference a week makes. The Kentucky D went from being torn apart by Matt Corral of Ole Miss to completely taking over the game against Mississippi State quarterback KJ Costello and the Bulldogs’ Air Raid attack. This was the first time in an almost 20-year career that a Mike Leach team has been held to zero offensive points and a big part of that was the six interceptions picked up by the Wildcats’ defensive unit. The interceptions were timely too, with a couple coming on the Kentucky doorstep when the Bulldogs looked like scoring. Continuing an interception trend would be big in this one.
Where’s the offense
Weirdly the script on offense between the two games against Mississippi teams was the inverse of the defense. The Cats rushed for over 400 yards in defeat against the Rebels, but the attack just never got going against the Bulldogs. Kentucky went for just 157 total yards – admittedly against a funky 3-3-5 front – which explains how Kentucky only scored 24 points even with those six picks. We don’t need the highs and lows in either unit this week, just a healthy balance would be nice.
Get after Jarrett Guarantano
The Tennessee quarterback is known to be a player that is turnover prone if threatened by pressure. That is exactly what happened in Athens last weekend as the Vols let a half-time lead slip against Georgia. Kentucky was able to put plenty of pressure on Costello on Saturday by rushing three defensive linemen and getting them through gaps in the line. Making Guarantano uncomfortable for 60 minutes in Knoxville would be huge.
Saturday‘s game kicks off at 11:00 AM CT (12:00 PM ET). Watch on the SEC Network.