Editor’s note: This is the seventh installment of our “Scouting the schedule” series, which breaks down every game on Mississippi State’s 2022 football schedule. Part 6 concerned MSU’s matchup with Arkansas, and Part 8 will evaluate the Bulldogs’ chances on the road at Alabama.
Last Oct. 30 in Starkville, Mississippi State put together its most impressive performance of the 2021 season, taking down No. 12 Kentucky by two touchdowns.
Maybe it’ll be enough to wash off the stink of an ugly 24-2 loss the season prior.
MSU managed only a safety in its last trip to Lexington, and another visit to Kroger Field awaits the Bulldogs midway through Southeastern Conference play.
If things play out as they did in 2021, Mississippi State will have no issues. The Bulldogs made Kentucky quarterback Will Levis uncomfortable and shut down Chris Rodriguez Jr. and the UK running game.
But MSU will need its offense to make the trip to Lexington this time around.
Mississippi State will travel to face Kentucky on Oct. 15.
Kentucky quick facts
2021 record: 10-3 (5-3 SEC)
Coach: Mark Stoops, 10th year
ESPN Football Power Index: No. 18
All-time series: 26-22, Mississippi State leads
Last meeting: Oct. 30, 2021
Kentucky’s inability to win in Starkville is the reason Mississippi State holds a four-game lead in the all-time series.
The Wildcats haven’t come out on top at Dudy Noble Field since a 14-13 victory in 2008. The two teams have alternated wins and losses in their past six games after a seven-game Mississippi State winning streak, the longest stretch in the history of the rivalry.
MSU and Kentucky have played every year since 1990. Some early neutral-site games between the two were played in Memphis (1944) and Jackson (1973 and 1976).
The Wildcats fell off abruptly in 2021 after a stellar start, but they still managed to put together a strong season.
Kentucky ended the regular season on a four-game winning streak, taking down Iowa 20-17 in the Citrus Bowl to end a 10-3 campaign.
The Wildcats were streaky all year, getting off to a 6-0 start before the wheels came off. Kentucky lost to eventual national champion Georgia 30-13 before its 31-17 loss in Starkville. The Wildcats lost a shootout to Tennessee the following week before righting the ship and winning their final four games.
Returning quarterback Will Levis was solid in his first season after transferring in from Penn State, totaling 2,827 yards, 24 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Running back Chris Rodriguez Jr., who netted 1,379 yards and nine scores, is back for the Wildcats.
Top receiver Wan’Dale Robinson, who racked up 1,334 receiving yards and seven touchdowns, is off to the NFL as a second-round pick of the New York Giants. Josh Ali, who had 601 receiving yards and three scores, will not return.
On defense, leading tackler Yusuf Corker (81 tackles) will not return, but inside linebacker DeAndre Square (80 tackles) is back. So is outside linebacker J.J. Weaver, who led his team with 6.5 sacks.
Kentucky brings in a strong recruiting class that sits at No. 14 in the latest 247 Sports composite rankings.
The Wildcats have 11 four-star recruits, led by Indiana offensive tackle Kiyaunta Goodwin and Tennessee wide receiver Barion Brown — both top-100 recruits. Pittsburgh edge rusher Tyreese Fearbry and Tennessee linebacker Keaten Wade are both ranked in the top 200.
Of Kentucky’s nine transfer additions, three come from the Southeastern Conference: Tennessee running back Dee Beckwith, Auburn defensive lineman Tashawn Manning and Ole Miss cornerback Keidron Smith.
Kentucky also landed a pair of four-stars in Sam Houston State running back Ramon Jefferson and Ohio State defensive lineman Darrion Henry-Young as well as three-star Iowa quarterback Deuce Hogan.
Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.
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