Mississippi State’s defense will face its biggest test of the young season this weekend.

The Bulldogs (1-1) travel to Kentucky (0-2) on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network.

Kentucky’s offense is averaging 27 points per game and is led by an offensive line with a combined 94 starts under their belt. Behind them is quarterback Terry Wilson, who will be the most dynamic playmaker MSU has faced all season.

He is joined by running backs Asim Rose and Chris Rodriquez. Another talented Wildcats runner, Kavosiey Smoke, will be out with a broken rib suffered last weekend against Ole Miss.

“We are facing a team that is coming off a 400-yard rushing performance,” defensive coordinator Zach Arnett said. “It’s a toughness game with them. They are going to come right at you and see how well you defend the run.”

Kentucky rushed for 408 yards and six touchdowns last weekend in a 42-41 overtime loss to Ole Miss.

Rodriquez rushed for 133 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries, Wilson rushed for 129 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries and Rose rushed for 117 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.

That starts up front, where Kentucky’s offensive line is one of the strongest in the nation. The line is led by center Drake Jackson, an All-SEC pick last season and preseason All-American who has 34 career starts.

Junior right tackle Darian Kinnard is also labeled as one of the best offensive tackles in the country. He had one penalty in 706 snaps last year and 32 pancake blocks.

Overall, the four returning starters on the line helped Kentucky rush for 3,624 yards – at a 6.32 yards per attempt clip – last season.

“It’s probably going to be the most physical offensive line we’ve seen this year,” defensive lineman Nathan Pickering said on Tuesday. “So we just have to come with it. We have to come with our pads low, firing off the ball and play physical with those boys. If not, they’re the type of offensive line that can really show us up if we don’t do what we are supposed to do.”

Wilson is the biggest threat in the backfield, as he can pass and throw it. He is a run-first quarterback and has rushed for 171 yards and three touchdowns so far.

He has been successful when deciding to throw and has completed 38 of 55 passes for 390 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Mississippi State doesn’t have the type of quarterback on the roster to replicate Wilson to practice against, but Pickering said they are just simply working on keeping him inside the pocket and not allowing him to get outside.

“We know that he can throw the ball and we know that if he gets out of the pocket, he can run and do something with the ball,” Pickering said. “We are just focusing on keeping him in the pocket and not letting him get outside.”

dalton.middleton@journalinc.com

Twitter: @DLMiddleton8

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