When looking at Dan Mullen's 6-0 record against Kentucky during his time in Starkville, it's easy to say that Mississippi State has owned the Wildcats. When you go back and review MSU's games against UK over that time period, the games tell a different story.
Over the last six years, MSU's permanent SEC East rival has been in every one of those six games entering the fourth quarter. In fact, last season's 45-31 win on the road in Lexington had a 14-point margin only because of a late onside kick recovery that went back for a touchdown for MSU.
At Monday's press conference, Mullen talked about how exciting the rivalry between the two teams has become.
"That's the team from the east that we're going to play every single year. You know that team and you know what to expect," Mullen said. "It kind of brings a little bit of an edge. It makes it a little bit different to play every year. If you watch the games over the last six games, they've been pretty close, exciting games that seem to come down to the wire every year."
MSU had to win six straight in the series to even the overall record at 21-21 in the 101-year-old rivalry. It just so happens that this game begins a tough road ahead for MSU, which is now done with non-conference opponents and it look to improve on its 1-2 SEC record.
"It's good for us to get back in conference play," Mullen said. "We're playing a really tough Kentucky team, a team that has improved every year that we've played them. Under Mark Stoops you can see that he's recruited really well, they've got a lot of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. It's going to be a huge challenge for us this week."
One of those challenges will be in the form of junior
quarterback Patrick Towels. The UK legacy had a huge afternoon throwing for 390 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 76 yards on 23 carries with two more scores. He took over the ball game in every aspect.
"There's kind of a rivalry aspect to the game and the quarterback is going to step up in big games," Mullen said. "He put the team on his shoulders running and throwing in a huge game at their place (last season). I don't know if there's something different that we would have done. If you have a guy on fire at the quarterback position, there's no stopping him."
On the injury front, Mullen confirmed Monday that sophomore linebacker Dez Harris will miss the rest of the season with an ACL tear. Harris missed most of last season with the same injury in his other knee and it's the third major knee injury for him since high school.
Fred Ross will be back after leaving Saturday's game against Louisiana Tech early with a shoulder injury. The junior receiver was cleared to come back in the game and played several snaps but wasn't as comfortable.
Tight end Gus Walley made it back for Saturday's game after missing two games due to a hand injury, but he took two vicious hits on one possession against La. Tech and didn't return. Mullen said he will know more about him closer to the game.
Mullen also said wide receivers Joe Morrow and Gabe Myles could return this week after missing the last two games with injuries. Running back Ashton Shumpert and safety Jamal Peters should also return after missing last week.