Kickoff is 7 p.m. Saturday at Kroger Field in Lexington, Ky., with ESPN2 cameras there to see if Snell lives up to his bulletin-board type statements.
“I’m going to run on any team,” Snell said after his team rushed for 245 yards in last week’s 48-10 win over Murray State. “You could be an NFL team, it don’t matter. This offense don’t fear nobody. I know they’re good, but this offense is good too.”
Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead, who has his Bulldogs off to a 3-0 start in his debut season, agrees with the notion that Snell, who has rushed for 2,779 yards in less than three seasons, is the real deal.
“His talent and production kind of speaks for itself,” Moorhead said. “He’s an All-SEC player that’s 5-11, 225-pounds and is in a lot of ways similar to our guys. He can run between the tackles, can break it out in the open and is a good receiver out of the backfield.”
But Moorhead and defensive coordinator Bob Shoop no doubt have taken a long look at game film from last year’s victory over the Wildcats. Mississippi State held Snell to just 18 yards on seven rushes in pasting the Wildcats 45-7.
“Coach Shoop and his staff do a real good job exhausting all of the possible scenarios and ways to bottle up a guy like that,” Moorhead said. “He’s a guy that you’re not necessarily going to stop. You’re just looking for ways to contain him because he is talented.”
The Bulldogs’ defense is only allowing 85 yards per game on the ground this season and must remain disciplined against Snell.
“With any great back, you have to make sure you have great gap integrity,” Moorhead said. “You’ve got to make sure you do a great job of gang tackling and getting a bunch of hats to the ball. With this guy and how physical he is, he can bounce off tackles and you can’t arm-tackle him because he’s going to run through it.”
The Bulldogs are coming into the game off a 56-10 rout of Louisiana that followed a 31-10 win at Kansas State and 63-6 rout of Stephen F. Austin. This will be Moorhead’s first SEC outing. He’s looking forward to it.
“I’m excited to get into SEC play, the first one on the road,” he said. “It’s going to be a great challenge, and we will be ready for it.”
Kentucky already has one SEC win to its credit, ending a three decades-long losing streak to Florida with a 27-16 victory over the Gators, who had won 31 consecutive games in the series.
The Wildcats then dominated Murray State to get off to a 3-0 start for a second consecutive season. They haven’t won four to start a season since 2008, when they opened with wins over Louisville, Norfolk State, Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky before losing 17-14 to Alabama. They finished that year at 7-6.
Mississippi State’s physicality concerns Kentucky coach Mark Stoops. The Bulldogs have a bruising quarterback in Nick Fitzgerald (6-5 230) to lead an offense that has averaged 558 yards in total offense.
“They’re as physical as anybody you’re going to play in this league, if not more,” Stoops said. ” So you have to match them. It starts there. But again, there’s a lot of other things that are going to go into it. But that’s a big piece of it.”
Fitzgerald, who was suspended for the opener, has passed for 397 yards and rushed for 266 in two outings.
His counterpart at Kentucky, Terry Wilson, has passed for 392 yards and rushed for 233 in his three starts.