Previewing Mississippi At Kentucky

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Previewing Mississippi At Kentucky
File photo. Stephen Johnson of the Kentucky Wildcats. (photo courtesy Getty Images)

Previewing Mississippi at Kentucky

For the first time since 2007 Kentucky is bowl eligible before the end of October. With four games left in the season the Cats can now focus on improving their destination. The first of those contests is Saturday when they face a dangerous Ole Miss squad. In Previewing Mississippi at Kentucky we begin with a look back at the huge win over Tennessee.

A Wild One In Lexington

The 29-26 win over the Volunteers was only the second victory for Kentucky over Tennessee since 1984. The Cats were dominated in every major stat against the Vols but still managed to pull out a win. In addition Kentucky had four turnovers all coming on fumbles. However Matt House’s defense bent but didn’t break holding UT to three field goals off the turnovers.

Quarterback Stephen Johnson went down late in the third quarter with an apparent shoulder injury. Drew Barker came in and promptly fumbled two plays later. Trailing 26-21 Johnson returned to lead the Cats to victory on an 11 yard touchdown run. A two-point conversion from Johnson to Benjamin Snell Jr. gave the Cats a three point lead. That capped off a career night from Snell who rushed for 180 yards and three touchdowns.

As for Johnson he added to his already impressive resume as Kentucky quarterback. In addition to his 12-6 record as starter he entered some exclusive company with the win.

However in true Kentucky fashion the Cats nearly gave the game away. After converting on a fourth and 25 in the last minute Tennessee had the ball near mid-field. A 48 yard hail mary from Jarrett Guarantano to Jeff George fell three yards short as the defense made the stop.  This was the type of game Kentucky has lost so many times over the years so win hopefully signals a change in the program. In case you missed the last play or want to relive it you can check it out here.

A Dangerous Opponent

It is time to look at the Rebels as we continue Previewing Mississippi at Kentucky. To say it has been a difficult season down in Oxford would be a great understatement. Head coach Hugh Freeze resigned during the summer after the NCAA charged the school with 30 violations. Assistant Matt Luke replaced Freeze for the 2017 season.

Already under a self-imposed bowl ban, the year got even tougher when quarterback Shea Patterson went out for the year with a knee injury.

One week ago Patterson’s replacement Jordan Ta’amu led the Rebels to a 31-7 lead over Arkansas. However the wheels totally came off and the Razorbacks rallied for a 38-37 victory.

In his first start Ta’amu proved he could lead the high powered Ole Miss offense throwing for 368 yards. In addition he rushed for 76 more yards and two touchdowns. Dual threat quarterbacks have given Kentucky fits so containing him will be a huge key. They also have a strong running game behind Jordan Wilkins. For the season Wilkins has rushed for 586 yards and five touchdowns. He is also a threat coming out of the backfield with 20 receptions.

While Ole Miss scores a bunch of points they give up nearly as many. Through eight games in 2017 the Rebels ran 116th out of 130 teams allowing 37 per game. They are even worse against the run ranking 127th out of 130. Giving up 260 yards a contest on the ground has to have the Kentucky offense chomping at the bit on Saturday.

Who Wins On Saturday?

As we continue Previewing Mississippi at Kentucky it is time to make a prediction on Saturday’s game. Following the huge win over Tennessee the Cats have a chance to make 2017 special. Every win Kentucky gets in its last four games improves their post season destination.

Stoops says Johnson’s shoulder is pretty banged up and he won’t practice this week but will play Saturday. However Barker is going to have to be ready just in case. With the Rebels porous defense Look for a heavily run oriented playbook from offensive coordinator Eddie Gran.

It should be a huge day for not only Snell but Sihiem King as well. Snell is only 269 yards away from becoming the first player in school history to rush for 1,000 yards in back to back seasons. He should pick up a large chunk of that on Saturday.

On the other side of the ball the Rebels big play capability has to worry the Cats defense. The Wildcats secondary has given up big plays all season and containing Ta’amu will be a big key.

The Rebels are 0-3 when they score under 40 points and 3-5 when they don’t. Ole Miss is winless away from Oxford in 2017 and on paper this should be a relatively easy win for Kentucky. However if we have learned anything in 2017 no victory comes without stress for the Cats.

Look for the Rebels to throw downfield early and often. They will probably hit on a couple of long touchdowns strikes to hang around. Eventually the Cats running game wears down the Rebels and the Cats move to 7-2 for the first time since 1984.

Kentucky 35  Ole Miss 24

Next week the Cats hit the road as they travel to Nashville to face Vanderbilt, a place that has been less than kind to Stoops. Thanks for Previewing Mississippi at Kentucky with us here at Last Word On College Football. Have a prediction on the game post it in the comment section.

 

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