STARKVILLE — While it’s his first year in the SEC, Kentucky quarterback Devin Leary is no stranger to playing at Davis Wade Stadium. Leary lost to Mississippi State football in 2021 when he was starting at NC State.
On Saturday (6:30 pm, SEC Network), after transferring to UK in the offseason, he makes his return to Starkville.
“He’s got an unbelievable arm,” MSU defensive coordinator Matt Brock said. “I remember in the NC State game, he threw one shot. He didn’t complete it, but it sailed forever it felt like. You watch him right now, some of his incompletions are not missed throws. He throws it so hard, guys can’t catch it at times. You look at what he did against Tennessee, he was on fire. He’s a great quarterback. He has mobility, which is always a fear.”
As Leary looks to pick up his first win in Starkville, Kentucky (5-3, 2-3 SEC) is looking to snap a three-game losing streak. Mississippi State (4-4, 1-4) is looking to defeat its cross-division rival while picking up its second SEC win under coach Zach Arnett. The home team has won every matchup between MSU and UK since 2014.
Mississippi State defense vs. Kentucky offense
As much praise as MSU’s coaches have for Leary, the key to slowing down coach Mark Stoops’ squad is containing running back Ray Davis.
Davis, a Vanderbilt transfer, leads the SEC with 102.9 rushing yards per game, highlighted by the 280 he had in a September win against Florida. He has scored a touchdown in five of eight games. In contests where he has more than 70 rushing yards, the Wildcats are 4-1.
In last season’s win against MSU, Kentucky ran for 239 yards.
Mississippi State offense vs Kentucky defense
Mississippi State had one of its worst offensive showings last season against Kentucky, putting up just 10 points. MSU’s last couple outings haven’t provided much confidence that this year’s meeting with UK will be much better.
Since coming off its open date, Mississippi State has combined for 20 points against Arkansas and Auburn. It remains unclear who will start for the Bulldogs at quarterback as senior Will Rogers continues to recover from a shoulder injury suffered on Oct. 7 against Western Michigan.
In two starts since Rogers’ injury, Mike Wright has combined for 246 passing yards and another 123 rushing.
MSU receiver Zavion Thomas had a breakout game at Auburn with a career-high 112 rushing yards. However, many are still waiting for his big play in the return game.
Thomas ranked second in the SEC last year with 13.47 yards per punt return – which included one for a touchdown against Georgia.
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Mississippi State football score prediction vs Kentucky
Mississippi State wins 17-16: If MSU can pull off the upset, it’ll have to be another defensive grind like the win against Arkansas. Kentucky averages 30.8 points per game. However, the average is down to 20.3 across the last three contests. I’ll take a desperate MSU team at home.