November 03, 2023
Joel Coleman, Senior Writer
A quick look at 10 items of interest ahead of the Bulldogs’ battle against the Wildcats.
STARKVILLE – It’s homecoming weekend in Starkville – in more ways than one.
Saturday at 6:30 pm, MSU is set to square off with Kentucky as the Bulldogs play their first game at Davis Wade Stadium in nearly a full month. That much you know. However, there are several things you might not.
So, let’s have a look at 10 items to be aware of headed into State’s showdown against the Wildcats:
- Mississippi State is throwing it back to 1998 on Saturday. The Bulldogs will be sporting the iconic uniforms worn by that year’s Southeastern Conference Western Division championship team, complete with the beloved interlocking MSU logo on the helmets. Also, several members of the ’98 squad will be in Starkville enjoying a 25-year reunion and more.
- State is looking to continue a trend of home dominance over Kentucky. The Bulldogs have won each of the last six games against the Wildcats that have been played in Starkville. The winning streak began in October of 2010 when MSU earned a 24-17 triumph. Quarterback Chris Relf scored the game-winning touchdown that day on a four-yard rush with a little over 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
- A couple of Bulldogs once wore the blue of Kentucky themselves. MSU defensive line coach David Turner – now in his third stint at State – previously had two stints with the Wildcats. Turner coached Kentucky defensive ends in 1993-94, then was the defensive line coach from 2010-12. Also, State defensive back Ja’kobi Albert – who has been out this season due to injury – played at Kentucky last year and saw action in 10 games as a freshman, recording three solo tackles and a tackle for loss.
- Saturday’s game will serve as a tiebreaker in the all-time series between the Bulldogs and Wildcats. The two teams have split the first 50 games they’ve seen each other in a series that dates back to 1914.
- State and Kentucky have been common foes for more than three decades now, but this weekend will see that come to an end. With the restructuring of Southeastern Conference schedules due to Texas and Oklahoma coming into the league next season, the Bulldogs and Wildcats won’t face each other in the regular season in 2024. It’ll be the first year the two schools haven’t met since 1989.
- bulldog receiver Zavion Thomas will be looking to have a second-straight big performance on Saturday. The sophomore had a career day last weekend at Auburn. Against the Tigers, Thomas racked up a career-best in receptions and yardage with nine catches for 112 yards. He also notched his first-ever collegiate touchdown reception.
- State linebackers Jett Johnson and Nathaniel Watson are doing their thing yet again. Last year, Johnson led the SEC in tackles with Watson right behind him. With four games left in the regular season, the dynamic duo is on pace for a repeat. Johnson enters Saturday with a league-high 84 tackles. Watson is in second place with 80. Watson is also tied for the conference lead in sacks with eight. Johnson is tied for eighth in the SEC with four sacks.
- Kentucky’s offense enters Saturday’s affair coming off its best statistical performance of the season. Last week in defeat against Tennessee, the Wildcats – led by quarterback Devin Leary – set season highs in passing completions (28), passing yards (372), total plays (63) and first downs (24).
- Perhaps the Wildcats’ top offensive weapon is running back Ray Davis. Davis comes into play against State leading the SEC in rushing with his 823 yards. He’s also tied for first in the league with nine touchdowns on the ground.
- Mississippi State follows up Saturday’s game with its final road trip of the 2023 regular season. The Bulldogs travel to Texas A&M for a 6:30 pm game on November 11. That precedes a pair of home games against instate foes to complete the scheduled slate – first against Southern Miss at 11 am on November 18, then the Egg Bowl against Ole Miss at 6:30 pm on Thanksgiving night, November 23.