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Will there be chants of "SEC, SEC" during Thursday's game between Mississippi State and Kentucky? Probably not, unless they're in an ironic sense.
Now, the matchup isn't nearly at a level that say, the Miami (OH)-Akron game was last week, but the SEC's next-to-last Thursday primetime game this season won't be used in any SEC advocates' highlight tapes asserting the league's dominance over the college football landscape.
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Though it may be the most important game of the season for Mississippi State.
The Dogs entered the season with bowl hopes and a chance to be a dark-horse candidate in the SEC West. Auburn was presumed to be down, and so was Arkansas. One of those is true. The other is certainly not.
After losses to Auburn and LSU, as well as a season-opening loss to Oklahoma State, the Bulldogs are 3-3. Those bowl hopes? They hinge on the Kentucky game, as the schedule isn't too kind; South Carolina, Texas A&M and Alabama still remain, as well as the annual Egg Bowl with Ole Miss. Even if you're penciling in the Wildcats and Arkansas, the most realistic outcome is 5-7.
Is that enough for Dan Mullen to keep his job? That was his record in his first season in Starkville, and since then, he's been over .500, including a 9-4 season in 2010. Is there room for regression? Or, like Missouri's injury-riddled 2012, will it be seen as an outlier in a general curve of progression?
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It's not a stretch to say that it's Kentucky's most important game of the season either. After taking the job and pulling in a good recruiting class, Mark Stoops suddenly gave Wildcat football some optimism. But after starting 1-5, Thursday is perhaps the Wildcats' best chance for an SEC win this season, despite the game being in Starkville. And Kentucky is an 11 point underdog.
Stoops is going to have time to try to turn Kentucky around, but a second straight winless conference season won't sit well in Lexington.
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