Kentucky trying to make push in SEC’s Eastern Division
Here are some things to watch in Week 8 of the Southeastern Conference season:
GAME OF THE WEEK: Kentucky at Mississippi State. The Wildcats and Bulldogs are often afterthoughts in the SEC, but both have quietly had a solid first half of the season. Kentucky has a 5-1 record and is in second place in the Eastern Division. Mississippi State is 4-2 and undefeated at home, including a 37-7 victory over LSU on Sept. 16.
MATCHUP OF THE WEEK: Mississippi WR A.J. Brown vs. LSU’s secondary. The 6-foot-1, 225-pound Brown leads the SEC in catches (35), yards receiving (678) and receiving TDs (6). He’s the main target in an Ole Miss passing game that’s ranked at the top of the league and among the best in the nation. No. 24 LSU will counter with a talented secondary that includes cornerbacks Donte Jackson and Greedy Williams. Williams leads the team with three interceptions.
NUMBERS GAME: No. 1 Alabama is favored by 35 ½ points against Tennessee. RJ Bell, the founder and CEO of Pregame.com, says Tennessee has never been that much of an underdog in any game since at least 1980. ... Tennessee hasn’t scored a touchdown in its last 10 quarters. ... Kentucky’s Austin MacGinnis had 16 points in a 40-34 victory over Missouri last week to increase his career total to 314 and become the Wildcats’ all-time leading scorer. MacGinnis passed Lones Seiber, who scored 305 points from 2006-09. ... Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald had the 10th 100-yard rushing performance of his career last week in a 35-10 rout of BYU. That’s the highest total ever for a Mississippi State quarterback. Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys had nine 100-yard rushing efforts during his Mississippi State career. ... LSU has won 20 of the last 21 times it has scored at least 20 points, the lone exception being a 24-21 loss to Troy on Sept. 30. ... Ole Miss posted its second-highest point total ever in an SEC game last week as the Rebels blasted Vanderbilt 57-35. The Rebels beat Vanderbilt 63-28 in 1979.
UPSET WATCH: It’s surprising to see Mississippi State favored by 11 ½ points over Kentucky since the two teams have similar records and their matchup last season went down to the final play. Kentucky should at least manage to keep this game at a single-digit margin.
IMPACT PERFORMER: Alabama running back Damien Harris needed just nine carries to run for 125 yards last week in a 41-9 blowout of Arkansas. He has delivered 75-yard touchdown runs in each of his last two games. Harris has rushed for 625 yards this season on only 68 carries to average 9.2 yards per attempt.
AP Sports Writers Steve Megargee in Knoxville, Tennessee, and David Brandt in Jackson, Mississippi, contributed to this story.